A Repented Outlaw
Wednesday, January 5, 1877, was a raw winter day. Outside of the small town of Hawkeye Brave, North Dakota, a group of 14 brave souls gathered at the gravesite of Jessup Holliday.
Hawkeye Brave was located in the Northwestern corner of the state. Outlaws loved staying in Hawkeye Brave because few folks ever ventured there other than those of their own kind. Although North Dakota was a state, it was still a frontier, and not part of the USA.
A man dressed in black warily made his way to the back of the group without looking at anyone around him. This man was James Doolan, a notorious gun-slinger with 32 kills notched on his holster. However, something seemed very different about him that day.
Only two older men in the group knew who he was, or really cared to know. One of the older men was the town’s undertaker, and the other was the town’s former drunk, and the last thing that either wanted to do at the moment was to become number 33 and 34 notches on Doolan’s holster.
The Reverend Haskell Pickett stood at the front of the grave with a small black Bible that was worn and tattered. This was the 3rd grave-site funeral he had performed so far that week.
“I know that Jessup led a life of crime for much of his 25 years on this planet. But, Jessup never forgot his mother and 2 sisters, and made sure that they had food on the table, and a roof over their head, which was more than most outlaws ever did for their families.” Spoke the good reverend as he shivered from the 6 degree bone-chilling cold and flying snowfall that gripped each person huddled together.
Something had happened to Jessup recently that had folks scratching their heads. Three months earlier in a Saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota, Jessup and 3 others were in a tense game of poker. Jessup had won $2,000.00 so far and was on a roll. One of the gamblers accused Jessup of cheating, and pulled out a pistol ready to shoot Jessup.
What happened next was beyond belief.
James Doolan came slowly down the steps of the saloon from his hotel room. The saloon had the only hotel in town for folks to spend the night. At once, the gamblers realized that this was the infamous gun-slinger, James Doolan. A deadly hush fell over the saloon as Doolan slowly walked to the card table.
“I have been watching each of you play poker while I was hiding in the corner near my room” spoke Doolan in a calm voice. “The young man has played honestly all night, and you need to let it go at that,” commanded Doolan.
“Yes sir mister Doolan, I will do just that,” Spoke the accuser.
Jessup was at a loss hearing these words coming from Doolan. He first thought Doolan had really gone off of the deep end. He later changed his mind.
“Young man, come with me for a walk, and I will show you the life you need to be living.”
Jessup reluctantly agreed and walked outside with Doolan.
“Jessup, I have spent most of my life doing wrong with killing folks even though I never started a gunfight. I had to defend myself to stay alive. About 6 months ago, I was near death. A kindly old preacher took me in and saved my life in more than one way.” Spoke Doolan. “Pastor Eli Dodd showed me how to change my life by asking Jesus to save my soul and be forgiven for all of the wrong in my life.”
For the first time in his life, Jessup felt that he needed change in his life and wanted what Doolan had. On a cold clear night in November, 1876, Jessup Holiday gave his life to the Lord and prayed with Doolan.
Doolan and Jessup rode from town to town and told everyone they met how the Lord had changed their life. On a cold snowy New Year’s night, Doolan and Jessup rode into a small town in Montana. A gun-slinger took a wild shot at Doolan and hit Jessup in the heart. While Jessup lay dying in Doolan’s arms, both men knew Jessup was on his way to heaven to be with Jesus.
Doolan spoke up at the gravesite and told all what happened. The Lord moved in a special way that day.
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