Perhaps it is needless to say that the uninterrupted presence of Gramps had a profound influence upon the service. No preacher dared to fail to recognize his dignity. As well as being an officer in the church he was the heaviest contributor to its collections. He had a very curious habit of twitching his right ear when the preacher said something that did not just set well with him, and it naturally followed that every pastor who ever served Mount Olivet fell into the habit of watching Gramp’s ear, and of course the sermon was governed accordingly. Thus “According to the deacon’s ear,” came to be a by-word through the community.
Well, as I have already said, Deacon Gramps sat on his plow-handles. Just as he turned to unfasten the trace-chains from the plow to drive his horses to the barn, he saw two men climbing over the whitewashed fence that led from the barn toward the Church on the hill. Seeing these men were coming towards him, he resumed his position on the plow-handles and waited for them. As the two men drew near, he recognized in them the familiar features of Deacon Brown and Deacon Jones.
Jake Benton was a member of Mount Olivet Church and had been for twenty-seven years. Jake was a man of ordinary natural intelligence, but like most of his neighbors was utterly ignorant as far as literary training is concerned. He naturally had deep religious sentiments. Under proper teaching he doubtless would have pressed his way into a genuine experience of salvation and would have lived a consistent Christian life, but under the unwholesome teachings of Mount Olivet he had given himself over to a mighty religious drift and had drifted far away from God and was completely destitute of redeeming grace. Oh, to be sure, he testified regularly at the church services and gave of his limited means toward the church’s support, but he was a man of uncontrollable temper and was well versed in the art of old-fashioned fist-fighting. But his profession had become a burden to him, and he had often wondered if there were no possibility of extracting some joy out of the juiceless lemon of his profession.
Now, it so happened one summer that Deacon Cramps had a large drove of cattle ranging on the hills about thirty miles to the southeast of Mount Olivet community. This drove of cattle consisted of a thousand head, and it became necessary that the Deacon employ some trustworthy person to herd the cattle and prevent them from scattering, or being stolen by cattle-thieves who sometimes visited that section. Since Jake Benton was known as an upright man and was a brother in the church, Deacon Cramps offered him the position. Out of pure financial necessity Jake accepted.