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THE GOOD BOOKS The True Story of Y'All

Byrd, James Dean Jay & Steven Cheslik-Demeyer

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ISBN 10: 0967254213 / ISBN 13: 9780967254210
Published by Lucky Green Dress Company, 2001
Used Condition: Very Good+ Soft cover
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Title: THE GOOD BOOKS The True Story of Y'All

Publisher: Lucky Green Dress Company

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Softcover

Book Condition:Very Good+

Dust Jacket Condition: No Dust Jacket

About this title


You know where they ended up. This is the story of how they got there.

James Dean Jay Byrd was born October 28, 1967, in the broom closet of the Okey-Dokey, Texas, VFW hall during a preaching contest in which his father was competing. Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer was born March 22, 1968, in the upstairs bedroom of his parents unfinished farmhouse in Kornflake, Indiana.

Being the son of an itinerant tent revivalist, Jay Byrd grew up traveling Texas with his family. Being the son of farmers, Steven spent his early years on the farm. But a vision of biblical proportions sent Jay Byrd, in his Uncle Joes lucky green dress, on a journey to a pumpkin patch in Circleville, Ohio, where Steven--on his own journey--was waiting.

A terrible thunderstorm brought Jay Byrd and Steven together, but music kept them together. They found that the songs they wrote and the way they sang together was special, so they made their way together to New York City and started performing together as the duo YALL.

Based on actual events, The Good Book: the true story of YALL tells the story of how two voices that were born to sing together found each other.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One Okey-Dokey, Texas

I was born in Okey-Dokey, Texas, which is the southeast point of the equilateral triangle created by it, Houston, and Galveston. I left when I was twenty-four, led by a vision. Like they talk about in the Bible a lot. The reason I use the Bible as my example is because my Daddy's a preacher. Some folks might question that. He never graduated from Bible college. He had a run-in with some of his teachers about the way he proposed to teach the gospel. So he quit Bible college.

The Bible college was in Waxahachie, Texas, decidedly northeast Texas. After Daddy quit, he and my Momma packed up the Rambler station wagon and drove back to Goose Creek, which was where most of their family lived. Most of them except for Daddy's parents. They were farmers in Big Squaw, which is about halfway between Goose Creek and Waxahachie. Daddy and Momma met when they were teenagers and both of them were counselors at a summer camp in Nacogdoches. As soon as they were old enough to get a license, they married and moved to Waxahachie.

While they were there, their first daughter Rose Anne was born. Barely a year later, they'd returned to Goose Creek and Deana was born. Rose Anne had been named after my Momma (Rose Marie), so Deana was named after Daddy. His name is Roy Dean so her name is Dean-a. I was supposed to be born in Goose Creek, too. So everybody thought. But I ended up getting born in a storage closet at the Okey-Dokey VFW Hall. It was October 1967. Daddy had entered an amateur preaching contest. There wasn't any sign of me when he sent in his entry form. (Perhaps the excitement of his being accepted into the competition is the reason I'm here today!) They couldn't have timed it any better, though, because Momma went into labor just as Daddy was supposed to begin his shortened-for-competition half-hour sermon.

He considered pulling out of the competition, considering that I was already two weeks late, but Momma wouldn't let him. He even tried to get her to stay at home. But she refused. So the five of us went, Rose Anne and Deana, Momma, and me in Momma's belly and Daddy with a million things on his mind.

Daddy was scheduled to go on second. The first preacher up was a young man, a farmer who called himself Brother Jones. Momma always insists he called himself "Brother" so nobody would mistake him for their child! He was short in stature and had features that certainly conjure up images of youth. Bright copper hair and penny-sized freckles. Also, he wore a brand new pair of overalls and a borrowed suit coat. He must've figured that if preaching didn't work out, he could always return to farming. And why put out all that money for a whole suit when he might not have an occasion to wear it again?

Brother Jones's sermon was shorter than any of the other contestants' because page three of his five-page sermon disappeared somewhere (and he didn't even try to fill in the blanks to make for a smooth transition). As he preached, Momma paced back and forth in front of a row of metal folding chairs rubbing her belly and breathing in rhythm in the makeshift backstage of the Hall. It was also a makeshift office and a makeshift kitchen, according to the event taking place. Rose Anne and Deana sat prim and proper in two folding chairs, wearing their matching green leaf print dresses that Momma had made out of some old tablecloth fabric, with orange velvet ribbons as belts and in their hair. Daddy stood over the industrial sink at the least-occupied end of the room, practicing his preaching gestures.

The rest of the backstage room was packed with the members of the Austin Angels Halleluia Heaven-Bound Gospel Choir. They had kindly fit the Okey-Dokey amateur preaching competition into their busy traveling schedule in exchange for a meal and the floor of the VFW Hall where they would sleep that night.

The mayor's wife, Edna Joy, was the organizer of the event, and she believed the inclusion of the choir gave the competition a little more respectability. At this point in time, Okey-Dokey, Texas, was still trying to live down its tarnished reputation from 1959 when the former preacher emptied out the Okey-Dokey First Baptist Church safe and then tried to cover up his crime by burning the church down.

Most of the residents of Okey-Dokey moved away immediately after that incident. Many of the rest moved out in the years following. In 1967 there were only forty or fifty people living in Okey-Dokey. Frank Joy was the only one who had any political leanings whatsoever, and he was easily elected mayor of the small town. His first act as mayor was to build the VFW Hall. His father had died in WWII and his grandfather in WWI, so he thought it was a good idea. The VFW Hall was built on the land where First Baptist had stood.

Although none of the remaining townspeople of Okey-Dokey were church-goers, many folks in the neighboring communities (Goose Creek, Highland, and others) thought it somewhat sacrilegious to not replace the church. Edna Joy's family lived in one of those neighboring communities. She wasn't about to let her family, which she never got along with in the first place, call her sacrilegious for something her husband did. She didn't get along with him much either. But she did put on a good show.

She organized a good event as well. She was the one who came up with the idea for the preaching contest. She called all the newspapers in towns as far away as Austin, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana, and put classified ads about the competition in them. She hand-selected the five competitors from the more than fifty entries she got, basing her decisions on the essays they wrote and the way their names fell off her tongue: Brother Jones, Roy Dean Byrd, Eldon Lee, Mackenzie "Mac" Donaldson, and Jerry Jim Johnson. Then she contacted the leader of the Austin Angels Halleluia Heaven-Bound Gospel Choir and made arrangements to have them come by and sing between each of the five preachers who would be competing. She also arranged for food to be cooked to feed the choir.

The drive from Goose Creek to Okey-Dokey is about forty-five minutes on the main road. In 1967 there was a shortcut that took between seven and ten minutes off that time. Children who were fortunate enough to ride this shortcut called it the Bumpity-Bump Road for obvious reasons. Daddy and Momma knew about the Bumpity-Bump Road -- and many other shortcuts around Goose Creek -- because they always seemed to be pressed for time, what with two small children and one on the way. Since Momma had gotten toward the late part of her pregnancy, Daddy never took the Bumpity-Bump Road with her in the car. On this night, though, Rose Anne thought she would help her Momma out but in the process got her hair caught in her dress zipper and it took a good ten minutes to get it loose. This was one night when they simply could not be late. Preaching had been Daddy's lifelong dream. So it was decided that they would have to take the Bumpity-Bump Road to get to the competition on time.

The Rambler station wagon had been Daddy's pride and joy when he bought it. He'd worked as many as three jobs at a time to save up the money for it. But the trips to and from Waxahachie took their toll on the Rambler. The main problem was the shocks. They were, as they say, shot. So, between the bad shocks and the Bumpity-Bump Road, I found myself in a pretty ready position to be born.

Momma had already practiced twice before so she knew what she was doing. But she didn't want Daddy to know what was going on since he had so many things on his mind this night, the most exciting night of his life. Even though Daddy had experienced the miracle of childbirth twice before, he never got used to it. He always cried. At first, while Momma did all the birthing work, he cried because he couldn't help her. And then when each of the girls was born, he cried for another hour. Tears of joy. His crying was a bit hard on Momma, though -- and Rose Anne and Deana were both born in hospitals. She wanted to delay his reaction as long as possible because she wasn't sure if she'd make it to a hospital this time.

Because of the swift delivery of Brother Jones's sermon (which left a confused look on the faces of the members of the congregation), the choir wasn't quite ready to go on for their first performance of the evening. There was a great hustling and bustling in the backstage area of the VFW Hall. Momma was bumped around in the excitement as fifteen people tossed their arms into maroon satin choir robes and did a few hasty la-la-la-la-la warm-up scales. Daddy was oblivious to it all. He was slicing the air over the industrial sink with his left arm, touching on several points in silence. The choir made their way onto the stage and started with a song that probably sounded something like "Are You On The Top 40 Of Your Lord?" I like to think so, anyway. But one choir member stayed behind. She had a big cream-colored pile of hair topping off her round coffee-colored face, and she introduced herself as "Ont Pearl" (pronounced "ont" as opposed to our traditional "ant" or "aint"). She u! shered Momma to the storage closet off the backstage area and halfway down the hall that leads to the bathroom. As they disappeared around the corner, Daddy had a feeling something was happening and turned around. Aunt Pearl popped her head back into the room and said, "Sister Marie's gonna have your baby boy, Brother Roy!"

Daddy went speechless, so Momma says -- although nobody else has ever seen such a thing. A boy? They had no idea. He figured Aunt Pearl was guessing. Or maybe she had secret powers! He looked at Rose Anne and Deana sitting so quietly in their chairs with their perfect little matching outfits which they were so proud of. Aunt Pearl seemed to read his mind. "Don't worry about them, Brother Roy, they'll be fine. You just go out there and preach your sermon. Do it for Ont Pearl!"

Daddy went out on the stage. He went out there for Aunt Pearl. But he didn't preach. The congregation was pretty worked up over the gospel choir and they applauded long and hard when Edna Joy introduced Daddy and left the pulpit to him. He stood there after the applause died down. Just stood there and looked out over the more than a hundred people who'd gathered there for this competition -- more people than had ever been in the VFW Hall. He was smiling on the inside. He was beaming. But on the outside he looked a little pale. His smile was more like a grimace. Edna Joy considered that she may have made a mistake by inviting this man into the competition. She returned to the pulpit, pushed herself (all four feet seven inches) in front of the six-foot two-inch man and announced him again. The congregation applauded again, but not quite as vigorously. They had given it their all before with no reward, so their applause was more out of politeness this time. Daddy cleared his thro! at but the tears had already started to flow as he said, "I want y'all to know how happy I am to be a part of this wonderful event. I don't know how many people actually entered the competition, but I feel lucky to have been selected." Edna Joy quickly reported from her seat right in front of the stage that there had been more than fifty entries. "More than fifty? Well, then, I am very fortunate to have been selected. But I won't be able to preach. Not tonight. Not right now. Don't get me wrong. Preachin' is important to me. Very important. It's one of the most important things in my life. In fact it's prob'ly the most important thing to me, after my family. It is. Yes, preachin' is the most important thing in my life after my family. And that's the reason I'm standin' here sayin' this now." He completely broke down. "Right now my wife is behind me, somewhere, makin' a family." Nobody understood what he was saying. So he got control of himself and clarified. "My wife is havin'! a baby boy!"

The congregation applauded wildly. They were still applauding as Daddy passed weeping through the backstage area, past the choir members and on through to the hallway. The applause continued as Edna Joy stood up and said, "How's about some more from that choir?!" And it continued as choir members hurriedly zipped up their robes again and returned to the stage. The applause had finally died down when Daddy figured out which of the many doors in the hallway opened to the storage closet where Momma and Aunt Pearl and I were. Momma says it was actually a very cozy storage closet. There was a cot in it and Aunt Pearl had made it up with the dark green tablecloths she found on the shelves. As Daddy entered, Aunt Pearl was leaving, to check in on the girls. She pointed Daddy to an overturned mop bucket where he sat down, looked at Momma and me, and sobbed. Momma laughed.

A couple hours later, Aunt Pearl brought my sisters into the storage closet to meet me, and she told Daddy that he oughta get out there 'cause it was gonna be his time to preach soon. And no sooner had he arrived than the choir let out a multifaceted "Aaay-maaan!"

Edna Joy grabbed Daddy and said, "What perfect timin', Brother Roy! Everybody else is done. Are ya ready now?"

"I sure am!" He hugged her and kissed her wetly on the cheek near her lips. When she approached the makeshift pulpit, Edna's knees were a little weak and she announced Daddy as "the proud father of free babies -- I mean three babies," and everybody giggled, and most of them thought my Momma had had triplets.

Unlike Brother Jones, Daddy doesn't write notes and read from them and call that a sermon. He studies a story from the Bible and goes on about it. And on and on. His competition sermon was about the Tower of Babel. Daddy likes the Old Testament a lot. None of the congregation had much familiarity with the Old Testament so Daddy easily kept their interest with the story of the Tower of Babel.

What it says is that way back in the time of Noah and his sons, everybody was getting their lives together after the big forty-day flood. Somebody said, "Hey, why don't we build ourselves a city inside a big tall tower and just hide away in there, and that way we won't have to worry about floods anymore. And we'll be safe because we won't have to change anything about ourselves or grow or anything like that." But the Lord had other plans for these folks, so the Scripture says. The Lord spread them all over the face of the Earth so they couldn't easily visit each other a lot. After a time, they couldn't even understand exactly what each other was saying anymore because their languages had changed. And they grew in different directions and did things in different ways in their different parts of the world. And they all became more interesting because of it.

So, Daddy says, the story of the Tower of Babel tells us that we must work to understand and appreciate each other's differentness. Not try to get everybody to be just the same. That's not the way the Lord wants it. And it's just not very interesting. We're all individuals, Daddy says, no matter if we come from Africa or Asia or Galveston or Goose Creek, or right next door. We're all valuable and worthy people.

Now, some folks think the story of the Tower of Babel is about the wrath of God; others say it promotes segregation. Daddy says the parables in t...

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