The History of Otis Might Make This All Clear: Grace and Peace to All

Long time readers of aintsobad over at another site will remember how the Story of Otis began. He was mistakenly included in the Story section in Fiction at our old site. Only the move to the website allowed this writer to put on screen the real acts of Otis after his conversion at the Narrow Bend in the Road. The stigmata, along with various kinds of worship that grew up around Otis afterward have made it necessary to complete some of the story around Otis, historical fact, and that requires looking at his many texts, many of them in his own hand, none of them more than one generation removed from those who saw Otis in the overalls, as his followers like to say.

When we mention Otisianity, we do not mean he set out to convert persons to himself. Otis followed a strict kind of Reformed Christianit. He would have called it Common Christianity, for Otis tried to take his dogma from Jesus as closely as possible. When he did move beyond the Gospels themselves he liked the kind of Wesleyan theology he read; traveling preachers with their hearts strangely warmed, meeting with people along the way to see them converted to Holy Piety under the Sacramental covenant of God set by by the personal participation of the Christ. The Christ is revered, so the Way of the Christ is the path for the Christian.

Otis’ was to Redneck Christianity of the Southwest in his era what Paul was to the church of his day. He broke ground, broke tradition. Otis was a big ol’ boy so he broke a lot of things.

Otis fall from his pickup truck at the Narrow Bend in the Road has often been called The Second Fortunate Fall, since it brought him to saving grace. Otis never called his fall fortunate.

“It hurt,” Otis would often blurt out. “Ah fell out’n my own truck, whall it was runnin’ mind ya and hit the asphalt goin’ about thirty. The truck jest kept goin’. It hurt,” he would tell his listeners, when asked about it.

“Don’t go tryin’ thet yerself,” he added. “Find God where ya can or be found by God wherever ya are but don’t go fallin’ out’n no movin’ pickup truck lookin’ for God or me,” he finished.

Then, Otis would laugh.

I have come to think Otis was not only correcting the popular movement among Otisians of the time, who hurled themselves out of moving trucks at the exact speed in the precise place where Otis once fell from his truck. Otis thought the whole thing was foolishness. He refused to profit from the sale of the Original Vomit Relic industry that grew up around him. He would not sell any of the “stained bib overaalls” with the stigmatic stain on the breast.

“I got out’n them soon as I could,” Otis said. “Then ah cleaned em up. Why would I want to put anybody else in that stinkin’ mess?”

Otis had common sense, like Methodists, who thought they could use their heads to make the world better rather than just repeat the same old incantations in a futile search for the old mojo. God only knows what Otis might have done if he had had more time.

As it was, Otis worked hard for the time he had allotted to him. When he did die, he did not, to me, seem to mind at all. He was under a Red Oak tree on the property near where Enid, the Prophetess of Otis, had lost her life, so many years ago. He could not get any closer to the explosion site. Sometime during your life time a government report will come out, when someone in charge thinks no one else will care, the report will be made public.

“It won’t matter much,” Otis always said. “She will still be dead and ah will still be alone.”

The irony of his Sadness Statement. to many  of us who are scholars of Otis, came when Otis talked about his solitary life in front of crowds numbering int he tens of thousands. He was never much alone at all after the Bend in the Narrow Road, after he discovered the miracle nature of his conversion. There were whole days Otis would have loved to be alone.

And, so, the story of Otis continues. He was a prophet, alive, born of the death of a prophetess, converted past his middle years in a dirty country lane between Brock and Lipan, where the Brazos River collects the other creeks and nourishes the soil for a thousaand miles along.

Otis, after all, was a Texan. He knew the soil to be sacred.

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