Kenneth Copeland:An Anecdotal Remembrance of Televangelist Preacher Kenneth Copeland’s Grandpa. Buford Kenneth Copeland…
I grew up with the Rev. Kenneth Copeland. He and I attended the same church. The Church of ‘St. Vitus-Holy Prophet of God Assembly.’ I will always remember this anecdote which he shared. Picture this: The 1880's,Kenny’s Grandpa, ‘Buford Copeland’ is hitching a mule to a buckboard.
He is preparing to retrieve one, ‘Miss Annabelle Bodacious’, this being their first ‘official’ outing during a lengthy courting ritual called ‘The Days of Yearning’ a little known and, practically forgotten ritual. (Except among the ‘Pure of Heart Youth Ministry’ within ‘The Church of St. Vitus-Holy, Prophet of God Assembly.’ The story goes, Grandpa Buford Copeland arrives at Miss Annabelle Bodacious home and according to custom, must present tribute to The Elder-Patriarch, ‘Major’ Abraham-Isaac Bodacious III’, Annabelle’s Father ”
This, as an act of respect and honor, for his intended with hope of receiving the Patriarch’s Blessing.
He gives The Elder’ Major’ Abraham-Isaac Bodacious III, a signed, leather bound copy of a book Titled: ‘The Church of St. Vitas- Holy Prophet of God Assembly-Admonishments with Commandments and Liturgical Rituals.’ Signed, by none other than, the Revered and, Highly Esteemed founder of St. Vitas Holy Prophet of God Assembly, ‘ The Right Reverend-Prophet ‘Col.Beauregard B.Biggins Esq.’ (Late of the Confederacy.)
Grandpa, Buford Copeland, then performs the ritualistic washing of Miss Annabelle’s feet. After which he presents her with an acorn, an ear of corn and a pickling crock, filled with pig’s knuckles. The acorn represents the ‘Will of Almighty God’ turning something small and insignificant into a place of shelter and sanctuary. The ear of corn is symbolic of the ‘Shucking of the Tribes of Israel’ through the ‘Mighty Reaping Hand of God’ also ,not surprising, the ear of corn also connotes male virility.
The pigs knuckles? Well they remain a mystery. Legend has it that, ‘If a humble hog can ‘knuckle down’ and sacrifice to the Almighty, how much more so should Woman ?
Then, (for the men only) comes the ritualistic imbibing of the ‘Most Holy Corn’ (‘)Holy Ghost Fire) from the ‘Clay Jar’. This, followed with smashing of, said clay jar on the ‘Hitching Post’. The clay jar, symbolizes the woman’s self will, which shall be smashed,if it be God or, her Husband’s will.
The ‘hitching post’ represents the binding of the Woman’s will to the Man’s, as an act of absolute submission. Total surrender to the will of the Holy Father God(and her Husband)
Kenny at this point in the story said ,“Praise God! We do love our rituals.” Then, after one of his unusually long pauses and steeled gazes ,he continued telling the story.
Grandpa helped Miss Annabelle onto the buckboard they proceeded on their way. As they traveled, both sat in silence, as was Grandpa’s tight-lipped custom indeed, the standard behavior, of all men within their fellowship.
They were moving at a brisk pace, until suddenly, the mule slowed then stopped dead in it’s tracks. Grandpa held the reins loosely and sat with a fixed, stone faced glare. He then spoke,”That’s one.” Bringing forth forth a whip, proceeded to motivate the mule with several brutal applications from the whip.’ The mule, greatly encouraged by this show of force, proceeded at a much increased gait. Miss Annabelle sat in speculative silence. Continuing on their way ,Miss Annabelle imagined and pondered many things. How she would decorate their home, how many children they may produce for the glory of God. What would be their names ?
Would her Husband find her pleasing? Would she be seen as devoted as he, to the ‘Almighty?’ Would they strive into their golden years and be blessed with a bountiful clan? Within a mile of proceeding, the mule stumbles, again slows to a stop. Kenny’s Grandpa Buford again fixes a flinty stare on the mule. He then speaks for the second time. This time more forcefully,” That’s two!”
The mule hesitates, until receiving vigorous further instruction though the admonishments of Grandpa’s whip.
Miss Annabelle adjusts her seat cushion and smooths down her skirts.
With increased concern her imaginings, take a slightly darker turn. They continue to plod on. Finally, they reach a fork in the road putting them within earshot of the ‘Revelator’s of God’ singers with wildly animated congregants, ‘speaking in tongues.’ They are arriving at the ‘St. Vitus Tent and Tabernacle of Almighty God in his Great Mercy Convocation’ Miss Annabelle sits in timorous silence. The mule ignores Buford’s insistent tension on the reins to move to the right. The mule, pertinaciously chose to pull left. Kenny then smiled and shook his head. Here we have, the mule contorting his will against the will of Grandpa Buford. The mule stops.
Miss Annabelle, adjusts her cushion once more and nervously smooths out her dress. She fans herself against the heat of the day. She fixes her gaze, dead ahead.
Grandpa Buford sits in silence. He stares at the obdurate mule. Slowly brings his left hand to his face and smooths out his beard. Taking a deep breath, he releases his grip on the reins, ties them off on the brake. Slowly, he descends.
The buckboard seat springs creak and groan into the silence. Walking toward the Mule and, for the third time, in several miles, he gives utterance with emphatic voice, “That’s three !” He then walks to the buck board, retrieves his Winchester ’73 rifle from under a canvas tarp. Resolutely, he returns to the intransigent mule. With a face of granite, points the muzzle toward the mules head. He fires. The gun explodes.
Annabelle is shocked from her seat to a full stand. Her gloved hands instinctively move to cover her mouth. Choking out a scream. She has no image of this brand of violence in her young life.
This is not taking heads off of chickens for the Sunday meal. This not butchering squirrels or hogs. The mule heaves heavily. Blood pours through its fragmented skull. Bone and brains. One eye protrudes, grotesquely. It shudders and heaves to the dirt.
One eye is hanging by a thread among the dust and dirt, spurtinging blood. The glare of it’s death mask will haunt her days and nights. The Mule’s legs kick in the throes of death. Macabre. Trying to get traction, legs furiously pumping. Dust exploding all round the shuddering and shaking beast. Finally it twitches and trembles and becomes still. Wiping spatters of blood from his rifle and hands, Grandpa, Buford ‘Kenneth’ Copeland returns to his visibly shaken, traumatized chosen one.
She sits frozen in place. She notices her cushion is now in the dust.
How strange she thinks, the little comforts are always in peril of being taken from us.
In her shocked and, shaken state, she recalls a boy she knew. He was from a different religious sect. Kind and gentle. Read poetry and the ‘Song of Solomon’ to her. Held her hand once. The Patriarch disapproved. Not their kind. Heretics, the Devil’s brood.
How odd the thoughts one has in a moment of horror. These are her thoughts as he assists her, brusquely, to the ground, hard to breathe, feeling faint.
Buford walks on, ahead of Miss Annabelle, Winchester in hand. They near the clamorous revival tent. They can now hear the Preacher above the moans, groans and shrieks of the highly animated congregants. The ‘Holy Spirit’ is visiting the ‘Gifts of the Spirit’ upon the supplicants.
By now, Miss Annabelle Bodacious is deeply troubled. Darkening shadows close in around her thoughts and feelings. Like an approaching violent storm. She is shaking. They near the entrance. Smells of straw, mixed with aromas of damp wool and sweat. Smells of horse and mule manure mix with the damp, sweaty hides. Horseflies buzz and bite. Torture for horse and mule and ox. Hot canvas steams in the mid morning sun. Congregants are writhing and moaning on straw covered ground. Women sway in a sensual grip of ‘Holy Ghost’ ecstasy. Vapors rise from the sweaty, steaming St. Vitus dancers. Some appear dazed, stunned, crying and shrieking in an unknown tongue. In a state of religious mania.
The youth group is most athletic, jumping high into the air, waving their arms like flightless birds. The shirts soaked with sweat ,young men with only the start of a beard, overflowing with sensual heat. Faces contorted, flushed, they create a cacophony like animals. The young women stand swaying. Some speak in tongues others hum, swoon and praise ‘God the Almighty Father’ Indescribable unknown utterances. Speaking the ‘Heavenly Language.’
Meanwhile, Preacher is laying on hands, people dropping to the ground, as if mule kicked. The ‘Power of the Holy Ghost.’ Dust motes mix with hay dust, and wool lint, floating and shimmering in the fetid air. All these things become overwhelming for Miss Annabelle Bodacious. Her mind is reeling from what she witnessed. She wishes she were not there. The die is cast.
The rituals have been completed. She is soon to be his property. ‘Mrs. Buford Copeland’. ‘Annabelle Bodacious’ will be no more. The young girl who enjoyed making daisy chains, baking biscuits with her Grandma, quilting with her friends, sharing gauzy, gossamer dreams of future embraces and children to be named. Capturing fireflies in a Mason jar to use as a flickering night light on long hazy, Summer eves. The Summer of her life, is turned to a stark, raw winter. A barren landscape of hardness and little comfort. . She feels constriction, doom, like a prisoner awaiting execution . Unable to restrain any further, she tries to speak. With cracking, croaking voice she calls out….
“Please, Please stop a moment !” He stands, granite like, facing away from her. He deliberately, slowly turns and fixes his hard gaze on her. He is tight lipped. His eyes now malevolent. She tastes bile. She swallows hard. What can she do ? Maybe, she can appeal to his ‘better angels’? Is there some mercy in the man? Oh dear God please help me! With short breaths, tremulous gloved hands clasped together. She strains to speak, “Buford Copeland, that was the cruelest act I have witnessed in my life. Why in Lord’s name did you kill that poor mule?”
He slowly lifts his arm. Perspiration stains his shirt. He smells of sweat and gun oil. The ‘Holy Corn’ still on his breath. Her future and lifetime Master. Buford Kenneth Copeland, places one hand upon her delicate shoulder blade. He squeezes hard. She dips low in surprise of pain. His eyes upon hers. He is mute, for what probably would have seemed, an eternity. An eternity to Miss Annabelle Bodacious.
With jaw clenched and lips tight, Buford Copeland draws a deep breath. He has tightened his grip on her. Finally he speaks, ”That’s one.”