seen how they fooled Jake when Massy first brought him from
Old Virginia to help me herd cattle. Jake and me was herd-
in' cattle on the prairie and he wanted a drink and said, *I
will run over to that lake and get a drink.' I told him there
was no water in it, but he declared he saw it with his own
eyes; then he galloped over there and found nothing at allj
then he seed it in an another place and he run over there, but
it was gone. He then seed it over on the Bernard, and it was
not there, and he came runnin' back scared, and said ^I do
believe dis country is hanted, and I am going to beg Massv
to carry me back to Old Virginy."
I give this experience of Jake and myself to show what
a complete optical illusion the Mirage is. When I reached
Wharton, I told my dear old friend and brother. Governor
Horton, of my experience, and found that his was very similar
It is worth a trip to the coast country, especially the Ber-
nard Valley, to see the Mirage of Texas.
But as God created everything for some purpose, for what
purpose was the Mirage created ? I think it may be to teach
all men, especially the young, to beware of things that look so
beautiful in the future, but when approached they vanish into
Oh, how many young people, like Jake, waste their livei
in chasing phantoms of wealth, political fame, social favor
and the other modern mirages, when they should only seek
what they know to be real and abiding.
AN" EARLY TEXAS MISSIONARY ^MONG THE
I will give in this article, a =;prious adventure I had
among the wolves one night in 1849. I was then pastor at
Houston and was to preach the introductory sermon before the
Union Baptist Association that met at Huntsville, seventy-
598 The Life a^d Writings of
five miles from Houston. I left on Wednesday morning and
rode on horseback thirty-five miles. I spent the fu'st night
with Mr. Arnold, a highly intelligent, wealthy Methodist
brother. The next day I had forty miles to travel, and at the
breakfast table, Brother Arnold said to his good wife, "Mrs.
Arnold, there is not a single house between Montgomery and
Huntsville, a distance of twenty-five miles, and Brother Burle-
son will get no dinner unless you put him up a lunch, and I
see he is fond of mutton." And the good lady put me up a
"Benjamin's portion" of the good fat mutton on the breakfast
After riding fifteen miles I reached Montgomery county.
I learned a Baptist lady had recently settled there, and in those
days. Baptists being so scarce, only 1,900 in Texas, when the
missionaries heard of a Baptist in a destitute town they always
"rounded him up," as stock men say of stock on the range.
So I called to see this Baptist lady and was delighted to find
her an elegant Christian lady from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the
wife of Colonel Aaron Shannon, a wealthy farmer, and also a
devoted friend of Dr. Basil Manly, president of the Alabama
University. She was rejoiced to see a Baptist preacher, and
was longing to have regular preaching and a church organized
in Montgomery. She had a large family of intelligent chil-
dren; the eldest daughter was grown, thoroughly educated and
performed well on the piano. Very soon she ^aid, "Brother
Burleson, there is another Baptist lady, Mrs. Dr. Arnold, just
settled in Montgomery from Providence, Rhode Island, and
she is so anxious to see a Baptist preacher, I will send over
for her and she will come and we will all be together." I
said, "I would rejoice to see the lady, but mu?t get to Hunts-
ville to-night, and it is twenty -five miles distant, and I have
been told that I must get through the Big Thicket and San
Jacinto bottom before dark, or I will be "swamped."' Soon
the lady came and T found her to be a Baptist of great piety
and intelligence. Sin- know my dear old president, Dr. R. E.
Pattison, when he was pastor at Pro^adence, Rhode Island,
and of course loved him ardently, as all Christians did. He
was my beloved president while a student of the Western
Baptist Theological Institute at Covington, Kentucky She
also knew and ostfTMiiod liiohlv mv old T^rofe.^^or Dr. Ezokial
Dr. Rufus C. Burleson. 590
J. Robinson, associated with Dr. Pattison in the Theological
Seminary. She was delighted to meet one far away in Texas,
who knew these great good men. And Mrs. Shannon was
equally delighted to find that I knew so well her favorite Dr.
Manly. We were all delighted to talk over the noble Christian
excellency of those we had loved so well in former days. But
while we talked, time flew, and I reminded tiie ladies that I
had twenty-five miles to ride that evening, and had been told
that I must get through the Big Thicket and San Jacinto bot-
tom before dark or I would be "swamped." But they said. Oh,
you must stay till after dinner, it is such a treat to meet a
Baptist preacher, especially one who knows so intimately Drs.
Manly, Pattison and Robinson.
The young lady added additional attractions by some
beautiful songs and music on the piano, that had charmed
me in my college days. And though I knew I ought to be
going, I was persuaded to stay till after dinner, for which I
was sorry to see they were making very special preparation.
And after the dinner, the young lady, waving her beautiful
curls, said, "Mr. Burleson, I want you to explain some things
in the Bible, about fore-knowledge and pre-destination,
also some passages in Romans and Revelation. I knew I was
doing wrong to stay any longer, but as I had never at that time
seen Mrs. Burleson, the waving curls, bright eyes and soft
voice prevailed. After answering as best I could, these deep
and profound questions on theology, and as 1 was hurrying
away, the ladies kindly said, "Brother Burleson, if you will
take a nigh cut through the Big Thicket, you can save six
miles; the people on horseback often take that nigh cut, rather
than go the wagon road which is six miles further." I gladly
accepted the suggestion "to take the nigh cut." Fra- two
miles through the prairie, and three miles through the timber,
it was a plain, well traveled road, being used for hauling
timber, but beyond that point the road was blockaded by
immense pine logs, blown down by a fearfnl tornado that
swept over that country a few years before and caused the road
to be abandonded.
This fact the ladies had forgotten or perchance lia(^; never
known. But uncler whip and spur I forced my horse to leap
over those immense pine logs, across the dim i-'iarl.
600 The Life axd Weitings of
Sometimes the logs were too large to leap over and I
had to force my horse through briers and thorns, and tore my
Sunday pants. But I made all the speed possible, eager to
get through San Jacinto and out of the Big Thicket before
But, alas, "the way of transgression is always hard," and
before I reached San Jacinto bottom, having been so delayed
in leaping over immense logs and forcing my way through
thorns and briers, it was dark, so dark I could not see the road,
and my poor horse, tired and sweating, either could not or
would not keep the path and I soon found I was out of the road
and tangled up amid thick brush and vines. But I felt my way
back into the dim track, only to find very soon that I was
again out among thick bushes. I said to myself, "if I vrander
away from the road in this dense thicket, I may not be able
to find my way back at all, so I will stop and rest till the moon
rises, which I knew" would be about 11 o'clock that night.
I sat by a large Sycamore tree and reflected on allowing
dear, good ladies to persuade me to do that which I knew I
ought not to do, and then to tell me to take a "nigh cut." I
remembered with sadness how often I had learned in child-
hood and boyhood the evils of doing wrong, ^nd then taking
a "nigh cut."
But while I was reflecting on the folly and evil of taking
a "nigh cut," I heard the terrible howl of a wolf. I said ^that
is lonely.' But it was lonely not long, for soon another howled,
and then another, and it seemed to me there Avere at least
fifty joining in the fearful howling. But there may not have
been more than a dozen, as it is a well known fact that one
wolf, either in religion or politics, will make more ixoise than
a dozen honest curs. And their howling was more hideous to
me because they were coming nearer and nearer, no doubt
smelling the ample supply of mutton which good Sister
Arnold had put up for my dinner.
I remembered that Daniel in the lion's den, r.nd Paul,
when he fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, i)rayed. And I
followed their example. And, kneeling down, I prayed for
God's protection against the wild beasts of that dark forest
and promised Him solemnly that I would never again be
guilty of the folly of letting ladies, young or old, or preachers,
Dr. Rufus C. Burleson. 601
or any living being, persuade me to do wrong and then take
a "nigh cut."
But while I was thus praying I heard a wolf coming
through the thick cane-breaks near the road.
I then remembered the Bible said, "Watch as well as
pray." I knew also that men and devils and wild beasts were
afraid of a brave man, so I resolved to be brave.
I also remembered that it had been said that music would
even charm wild beasts, so I concluded I would sing, and I
sang with a loud voice my favorite songs :
"How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord is laid for your faitli
in His excellent word."
'Tis religion that can give sweetest pleasures while we live, 'tis
religion must supply solid comfort when we die."
I thought at one time that I would climb the Sycamore,
but remembered that in the dense forest I migJit have to
remain up in that Sycamore much longer than Zaccheus did,
and besides I felt it would be cruel to leave my horse that
had been guilty of no wrong, to be devoured by the wolves.
I also thought that I would give them the mutton that
my good sister put up for my lunch, but I knew that the
mutton would not be even a taste for all of them, and they
might conclude to make out their supper on goat meat, in
which case the erring Texas missionary would fare badly.
So I continued to pray, and watch and sing, but when I
came to that verse, "The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for
repose, that soul though all hell should endeavor to shake, I
will never, no never forsake."
I could but feel that dark night in the San Jacinto bot-
tom, among the Texas wolves, that my foundation was a little
shaky. But I continued praying, watching, and singing till
11 o'clock, when the moon rose clear and cloudless.
Being able to see the dim path-way, I thought T would
put whip to my horse and make good speed; but then I re-
membered the value of courage and I rode quietly along
singing loud, "How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord."
After traveling some distance through this dense bottom,
I came to San Jacinto river, made ever glorious by the deliver-
ance of Texas from the bondage of Mexico at the battle of
602 The Life axd Writings of
San Jacinto in 1836, and that night, memorable by my de-
Soon I saw the dim light of a dwelling and soon heard
the barking of dogs, which was sweet music compared to the
howling of the wolves. I rode up to the gate and called "hel-
lo," there was no reply but the loud barking of the dogs.
I cried "hello" again. I then heard a low solemn voice of an
old man exclaiming, "Oh, Lord, have mercy, Oh, Lord have
mercy." I called again, but only heard that solemn response.
Oh, Lord ! I said, 'is it possible that Indians and robbers have
murdered everybody else and left only one old man !
I got off my horse, and fighting my ws'.y through the
barking dogs, I went to the open door, and there was a ven-
erable old man, nearly eighty years old, kneeling down with
a large family of children and grandchildren, kneeling
around him. As soon as he said Amen, two of his sons
arose, and coming to the door said, "Please excuse us, we
make it the rule of our lives, never to interrupt father'? pray-
ers, and he was deaf and did not hear you, and we could not
interrupt his prayer."
I soon found it was that grand old pioneer and pillar in
the Methodist church — EADbertson, whom I had met and
known so favorably during the glorious revival at Huntsville
He with his family had returned from a Methodist meet-
ing at the Methodist church, near his house, ^nd it had been
his custom for forty years never to omit family prayer, and
though it was nearly 12 o'clock, they were thus engaged.
They gave me a joyful reception and expressed profound
sympathy for my terrible ordeal amid the wolves and dense
forest of Big Thicket and the San Jacinto bottom.
The lesson I learned that night I have i-?iriemberod dis-
tinctly for fifty years and have often used it in my lectures
to the young in Sabbath schools and chapel services; to beware
of taking "nigh cuts," and especially of letting anybody on
earth, male or female, saint or sinner, persuade you to do
wrong, and then tell you to take a "nigh cut."
And I beg the readers, especially the young, to beware
of takincT n ni