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Once upon a time in the real American West, which might have been anyplace people were uprooted, undefined or emotionally underfed, there was seldom heard a word of any kind.

Even now, survivors dwell on that experience best remembered for its intolerable loneliness and the absence of all but the most basic human inputs. Young men would stand at their gateposts all day long for just a glimpse of settlers’ wagons heading west. People tended simply to hunker up in a warm place and hope for something to happen: a Bible reading, a laconic exchange, a fragment of correspondence or printed journalism. It could not be long endured, of course, and yet it was—right up until free enterprise, culture, and technology combined to effect a rescue of sorts for all those devastated folks out there on the wretched edge of Western Civilization.

And what was the first message likely to have leaked through by the miracle of radio transmission? Incline your ears to wisdom and rejuvenation:

“Fred’s shaking is so much better, friends . . . That old prostate really hurts when it is cold up there in North Dakota.”

Who was it? What was it? That mesmeric, almost Oracular voice trembling with urgency and unction:

“Folks . . . Friends . . . And all who are weary and oppressed. This is Dr. J.R. Brinkley speaking to you from my home in Del Rio, Texas, with a message for all humanity . . . “

The message, more often than not, dwelt on “the derelictions of this robber gland, the male prostate . . . 90 per cent of all males suffer from the enlarged gland which, if cancerous, eats out the bone marrow and leads to an agonizing end.”

Brinkley had hospitals in Del Rio and, later on, San Juan, Texas: “San Juan for your rectal problems! Del Rio for the prostate!” He also provided a straight-from-the-hip pocket accounting of available services: a Business Man’s Treatment, the Average Man’s Treatment, and (as a “humanitarian gesture”) the Poor Folks’ Treatment. The deal offered businessmen was pegged at $1,000 and was a combination of medical and surgical procedures for relieving “loss of pep and coated tongue.” Patients were guaranteed a free urinalysis every six months for the remainder of their lives.

The Doctor’s credentials were not impressive by contemporary standards. Gerald Carson, one of his biographers, pointed out that a mail order diploma mill—the “Eclectic Medical University of Kansas City, Mo.”—had certified Brinkley in Kansas, and from that point he operated on reciprocal certification in all of eight states. His principal mode of accreditation came through publicity from something they called “goat gland transplantation,” which was precisely what it implied.

“So far as I know,” he had said, “I was the first man that ever did this operation of taking the goat testicle and putting it in the man’s testicle. The glands of a three weeks’ old male goat are laid upon the non-functioning glands of a man. These goat glands do actually feed, grow into and become absorbed by the human glands, and the man is renewed in his physical and mental vigor.”

He was cautious enough to disclaim any notion that his operation was in any sense a cure-all, but it was indicated for a remarkably wide range of problems—impotency, insanity, arterio-sclerosis, prostate, high blood pressure, skin diseases, prolonging life and rebuilding the body. His patients were even more impressed, citing success in treating conditions such as “sexual apparatus . . . eyesight . . . influenza, youthful indiscretions, melancholia, hernia, dizzy spells” and such esoteric complaints as “husband acted queerly,” or “seemed to be floating through space.”

The ether over most of North America was very shortly turbulent with the babble and burble and atmospheric hiss of much of the Republic’s long suppressed derangements: mental, emotional, musical, or mercantile. There were hustlers and carny pitchmen, hillbillies and nostrum promoters, minstrels and mind-readers and displaced vaudevillians and lunatic whoopers from the First Testament. There were tips on horses, astrological revelations, stock market scams, occult intuitions, even a down-home strategist on the hatching of baby chicks.

But always, inescapably, there was Brinkley. He had in fact been broadcasting four times a day since 1923, four years before creation of the Federal Radio Commission, the first broadcast regulatory agency. He had always owned his own stations, the first of them in Milford, Kan., a tiny village which nonetheless boasted one of the most powerful signals in North America.

Brinkley had been there from the beginning—loud, clear, cantankerous, and ultimately outrageously rich from his hospital in Milford and a radio prescription dodge which exploited studio-to-patient consultations. He prescribed his own patent elixirs “from any druggist selling my remedies.” His earnings on prescriptions alone averaged $14,000 weekly or $728,000 a year—and he managed to keep the whole improbable hustle going for 13 years!

The right to operate a radio station was easily secured in those days of freewheeling enterprisers, and Brinkley’s original vision seemed modest enough, giving little hint of the grandiose reality that would soon materialize. He had already made a name for himself at a time when “rejuvenation fever” swept the country. More than 700 surgeons, charlatans, mentalists, necromancers and religious healers were hustling gland therapies of one sort or another to trembling, underpowered aging Americans. Brinkley had also made $12 million on transplants.

Among the early Brinkley clients was Harry Chandler, owner of The Los Angeles Times. Early in 1922, Brinkley was on the West Coast renovating the libidos of Chandler and his circle of friends. The visit coincided with construction of the Chandler-backed KHJ, first radio station in Los Angeles. Brinkley was intrigued, and said so:

“I thought it would be a nice thing to entertain my patients (back in Milford) by having a radio station close to the hospital where they could lay in bed and listen on their earphones, and so I bought the station and gave lectures over it . . .” Construction was underway by the summer of 1923; a broadcasting license came through in September, and within a few days Brinkley’s messages to humanity could be plainly heard in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean:

“A man is as old as his glands. All energy is sex energy! Of all afflictions that men are heir to, impotency is the worst. Who wants to be made young again?”

And so on, through the nights, through the years, ambushing the lonely, unfulfilled, vaguely paranoid and always unsuspecting wooly-hatted frontier Americans. Persons deprived of all sensory input will presently begin to hallucinate. Catch them at that low ebb, exposed and vulnerable, and no information seems too outrageous or fanciful.

Yet, for a time it appeared even Brinkley might have gone too far. In 1930 he lost both his radio and medical licenses—the lure and the cure—but it was soon apparent he had merely been pressed into vastly more ambitious media thrills. He had already made an accommodation with the Mexican government for creation of a 75,000 watt station at Villa Acuna, Coahuila, across the International Bridge from Del Rio. Brinkley’s Kansas operation had been sustained by a mere 1,000 watts of power. His new acquisition, XER, was suddenly pumped into operation as the second most powerful station in the world. Within two years and a quantum leap to a half-million watts of power, XER ruled them all with enough juice to blot out any U.S. or Canadian station operating on channels within 50 kilocycles of its wavelength. The mighty voice of XER—”Mexico’s radio outlaw . . . bootlegger of the air”—washed far and wide over the Western Hemisphere.

Thus was spawned the phenomenon of border radio, and Brinkley very nearly on his own had created the mode and the manner, the shape and substance and money-grubbing dynamic that has scarcely altered in 40 years.

Brinkley himself built two more stations: XEPN in Piedras Negras and XEAW in Reynosa. He also set the pattern closely followed by later entrepreneurs. There was Norman Baker, who promoted his cancer cure over XENT across from Laredo before he was convicted of using the mails to defraud. Brinkley sold his Reynosa station to Carr P. Collins who made a fortune pushing Crazy Water Crystals, an elixir which claimed relief for many complaints but especially constipation.

These stations sold commercial time to a raffish assortment of patent medicine men, evangelists, hate-mongers, mystics, diploma mills, handwriting analysts, personality therapists and merchandisers offering everything from baby chicks to techniques of seduction to stock in gold mines. The real gold mine, of course, was right down there among the sweltering palms of Tex-Mex country. If Wayne Rainey could strike it rich selling over seven million “talking harmonicas,” one could only imagine what profit could be made by stations selling nothing more substantial than broadcast time.

William Burns, now operating the International Advertising Agency in San Antonio but once a sales representative for the Brinkley station in the late Thirties, explains part of the edge: “We were selling air time in exchange for good U.S. dollars—while our overhead was in pesos. Operational costs were negligible.”

Burns also recalls Del Rio at a time when the environment was quite literally electric. “With half a million watts coming out of those transmitters, the whole place seemed energized. You could touch a wire fence and pick up a mild shock. Try to use a telephone and you were likely to hear old Brinkley’s voice leaking out of the earpiece. The air was just charged with the stuff.”

And Larry King comes up with this reminiscence from his hard-scuffling Horatio days in West Texas:

“One time in 1951 I was doing local news and spinning country records for Station KCRS in Midland, all for the grand sum of $70 a week, when this thin fella with a prominent adam’s apple and sporty two-tone shoes walked in and introduced himself. Looked something like a 1930’s road drummer come on good times: big sparkly rings and gaudy string tie and big car and hard essence of ambition. Said he had heard me on his car radio, just passing through, and I had the kind of palaver and down-home delivery that would make me a fortune if I would let it—and him—just do it. I said for money I would just about do anything, and he explained how he was connected with that Del Rio/Villa Acuna station. Described himself as an independent time contractor, which meant he bought up time in blocks of 60 minutes from the station and used it as he wished. He then sub-contracted to guys like me who could impersonate some evangelist, say, preach a little, sing a little, then give a spiel for etchings of the Last Supper or prayer cloths to be placed anywhere you happen to hurt. He said they even once tried selling bottled Holy Water from the Rio Grande.

“Or I might come on as Uncle Buddy or Cowboy Jim or whatever, so long as people liked me enough to buy tonics or hymnals or unsexed baby chicks or genuine simulated diamond rings. Yes, the deal was he would pay me $125 weekly to start, and more if I was good at it, plus a percentage of whatever came in from the good folks out there in Radio Land. If I liked it, and proved to have the talent he thought he saw in me, then he would sell me some of his own time and I could invent my own programs and characters and keep all I made—and conceivably become a big-time independent contractor like himself.”

King remembers it as “about the best offer I ever had, and I damn near took it.” Then he adds: “After a week, maybe, of searching what little soul I had, I decided that life called me surely to more noble roles, so I declined . . .”

Brinkley and his imitators along the border were never diverted by such irrelevant concerns. Not that there weren’t casualties now and again along the way. There was Norman Baker, the cancer quack who served time for mail fraud. Up until the early Sixties there was the Rev. Charles Jessup who nightly appealed for assistance in his own personal care and feeding: “Keep this little ole boy from the clay hills of Alabama on the air. I’m your brother, and I’m doin’ the best I can. Won’t you, dear friends, send me your offering today?”

In 1964 Jessup was arrested and charged with mail fraud, specifically for the use of donations to buy property, big cars, boats, seaplanes, and dabble in illegal cock fighting. The indictment claimed Jessup represented himself as “a holy and devout man whose whole life was devoted to God’s work, a man who had talked with God.” He had also talked with lady friends, the indictment charging him with concealing the fact he had been married four times, obtaining two divorces by false statements and courting and marrying a 15-year-old while still married to his third wife. His Fellowship Revival Association, the indictment claimed, was used to solicit donations, evade taxes, maintain reduced mailing privileges, and otherwise enrich himself personally.

Jessup was subsequently fined a few thousand dollars, and sentenced to a year in prison plus five years probation during which he would be forbidden to engage in any self-promotion ventures.

Bringing down the Brinkley empire was considerably more complicated. It was not until 1941 that pressure from the U.S. finally provoked the Mexican government to deny XERA its wave-length assignment and send in the Mexican Army to tear down the station and its towers. And before Brinkley could be brought to trial for mail fraud in 1942, he was dead of larger-than-life natural causes: heart blockage, kidney ailments, incomplete healing of an amputated leg. Within a few years, Brinkley’s former associates were back in business and carrying on in the glorious tradition—XERF was established as a successor to XERA, and the U.S. continued to be jolted nightly by the big voice from little Del Rio advertising pyorrhea cures, penny-a-day burial insurance, engraved tombstones.

The formula has seldom been tampered with to this day. The format of Station XEG in Monterey is practically identical to XERF, and XELO in Juarez tailored much of its broadcast time to similar programming until a recent change of ownership signaled a perceptible shift to soul-station trappings. Other faces in the cloud are PJB, powered by half a million watts from the Netherlands Antilles, beaming a signal north and south, and XETRA in Rosarita Beach, Mexico, covering Tijuana, San Diego, all of Southern California and just about anyplace else an effective signal strength of a quarter-million watts might reach.

The superpowered border radio has been more or less condoned by Mexican authorities from the outset, presumably because the U.S. and Canadian governments had arrogantly divided between themselves the entire long-wave broadcast band, leaving neither Cuba nor Mexico any clear channels at all. The border stations, traditionally owned by American investors, have always cut into wave lengths used by U.S. and Canadian stations which are forbidden by law from stoking up their own transmission facilities. With the border stations’ more powerful means of transmission, American advertisers were able to exploit their products throughout most of the U.S.

The hellfire and lamentation manner might have caused more sophisticated listeners to view the programs with contempt, but the economic rationale was incontestably sound.

The boondock listening audience was enormous, intensely loyal and infinitely patient—always desperate to invest a few more hard-earned dollars in suitably-packaged propositions guaranteeing anything from guitar lessons (“Don’t you-all know guitar players make lots of money?”) to relief from hemorrhoidal pain to mere eternal nirvana in the heavenly kingdom. Even conventional broadcasters began marketing products chiefly popular with country people: Black Draught, Wine of Cardui, Garrett Snuff, Nehi and Royal Crown, Redman Chewing Tobacco and Light Crust Flour.

In The Story of Country Music, the border stations were credited with the principal role in the dissemination of country music throughout the U.S. “If one could endure the seemingly never ending advertising,” the book notes, “he could occasionally hear a hillbilly song of the best quality.” XERA, for example, carried the Carter Family in the last three years of their professional recording career (1938 to 1941), and other stations carried such strong traditionalist groups as Mainer’s Mountaineers, the Callahan Brothers, the Delmore Brothers, the Pickard Family and Cowboy Slim Rinehart. It was generally assumed that New York and New England were the only areas where such programming did not claim wide appeal.

Nor do operational problems differ markedly from the time 40 years ago when Brinkley was obliged to prettify his own house with at least the appearance of nominal Mexican ownership. The stock ownership of the Villa Acuna Broadcasting Company was shifted, by bearer certificates, to Brinkley friends on the Mexico side of the river who just as obligingly handed the stock back to Brinkley. Whereupon the Mexican Department of Communications concluded that XER belonged to a group composed entirely of Mexican nationals, that the station was run legally and in accordance with all regulations, that it did not interfere with U.S. stations, and that any person could use it for “business, scientific, cultural or literary broadcasting.”

A contemporary broadcaster is compelled to play similar games. Border stations are ostensibly owned by Mexican nationals with exclusive sales rights leased to U.S. corporations which handle actual station operations. In practice, all shares of stock are signed over (as “bearer certificates”) at the time of issuance and are held in American banks. The procedure is standard for American companies doing business in revolutionary Mexico—and a matter of well-rehearsed negotiable routine for Mexico City law firms.

A broadcaster with a good many years of experience along both sides of the border states flatly: “There is no problem in successfully operating a Mexican radio station in the United States. If the Federal Communications Commission was as easy to get along with as the Mexican government, there would be few problems in operating any stations today!” He admits that there are, of course, “basic techniques” of ownership of Mexican stations which must be followed, but these present no problem with proper legal guidance.

Then, too, and surely not the least among the plus factors of such operations, there is the delightful fact that Mexican stations are licensed for 30 years rather than the three years common in the United States.

Just how staggeringly lucrative a border station beamed toward Yankee buying power can be is suggested by the example of XELO in Juarez, recently purchased for close to a million dollars by a group of El Paso businessmen-investors. The seller was one Jack McVeigh, also from El Paso, whose father-in-law had personally built the station before the war. When prospective buyers began appraising current profits and future possibilities, it was noted straightaway that the broadcast concession was good until 1989 and that there was virtually no upward limitation on its broadcast frequency. Current gross revenues were $300,000 yearly, which, with low operating costs typical of border facilities, produced a cash flow of $130,000 a year. This was the kind of money still circulating even after the McVeigh family had paid themselves approximately $70,000 in salaries as employees of both the station and their own advertising sales agency.

None of which, however, should suggest the McVeigh ownership was realizing XELO’s full potential. Consultants were quick to point out that refinements in equipment and in programming would produce dramatic results—juicing up effective signal strength from 50 to 100 percent and attracting a vastly larger listenership on both sides of the river. One critic noted the station was about where it was in 1944: “It simply does not program in a modern manner and thus fails to attract the Mexican audience in El Paso to the degree it logically should.”

And another observer commented: “With a station of this power, the number of formats in which success is possible is limited only by the imagination and promotional ability of the operator . . . It is likely that a new owner might consider retention of an improved format of Spanish programming until sunset when the skywave effect makes the station really begin to reach out . . . Additional opportunities arise in an expansion of the religious category in the evening hours and a strong format after the religious block. The greatest opportunity exists for the station as an absolute maximum power operation, one which could become a legend in broadcasting within a short time. That the present owner is short-sighted in this regard is shown clearly by the fact that he chooses to sign off the finest night signal in North America at 12 midnight.”

Short-sighted, just conceivably, but one wonders how listeners might ever feel short-rationed or vaguely deprived by premature signoffs of contemporary border programming. Take a quick, dial-spinning tour almost any evening and then reflect upon the losses. (See boxes)

There is Reverand Ike, the free-wheeling black evangelist out of Boston who is almost continuously on tour (taped re-broadcasts heard on XERF) and makes no apologies for his preoccupations: “The lack of money is the root of all evil!” He goes on to celebrate the coin of the realm and anybody’s steady accumulation thereof:

“I don’t care what you say, money is wonderful stuff . . . Don’t care how much holy ghost or holy goose you got, you need money! When people are broke and down and out, that’s sickness and I’m against sickness . . . You don’t think money is dirty or evil do you? Everybody give money a great big hand and say MONEY! That’s right. Everybody needs money, and even I need money. It takes millions of dollars to keep this ministry going. Now I didn’t say thousands, I said millions! One issue of our magazine we send out, which tells you how to use your mind power to get what you want, to attain financial success, one issue costs $350,000 for printing alone.”

And Brother Carroll in Dallas plugs appearances on his Southern tour and on his “great crusade in Toronto, ministering under the big tent,” before asking to support his worthy cause: “We’re helping orphans and widows and the needy everywhere. Sit down right now and make out a check. You’ll be prospered by it. You’ll be blessed four fold. Look for the signs! Renewed strength and health, and a healing will come to your body, giving you an abundance of power . . . God bless you and keep you over Christmas.”

It is almost a relief to come upon Don and Earl, who have been picking and singing gospel music on XEG for 20 years and have nothing to sell except a few more songs—101 songs, to be exact: “Now we gonna sang you ‘nother song in jus’ a minnit. We been on the radio twenny years and here’s the biggest offer ever—we’ll send you six different gospel record albums, featuring 101 songs by Don and Earl, for only $5, and we pay the postage!”

The Rev. George Cooper of San Antonio supports his programs with a grab-bag of items: calendars, ballpoint pens, 13 multi-colored Bible pictures, a biography of his life “from start to finish,” an automatic needle-threader, and “a large-print red-letter Bible approximately one-inch thick.”

Is there no relief from the seemingly rigid format, scarcely modified in 40 years? Well, change is not likely so long as those cards, letters and dollar bills keep coming. Yearly billings for English-language religious programs on XELO, for example, totaled more than $170,000 in 1971. There is the shift to after-midnight soul station formats, sponsored by the likes of “Hollywood Discount Records” and perhaps some merchandisers for Bikini underwear.

There’s also Brother Human, barely hanging in there for 15 minutes a week (Fridays, 11:30 p.m., Station XEG), paid for and performed by a group of Austin provocateurs masquerading as the Church of the Coincidental Metaphor. Even Brother Human needs help to carry on his guerrilla raids against the old hucksters:

“Humble natives! I come here tonight as a messenger of your great white friend Brother Human, who has commissioned me to indoctrinate you, here in this last stronghold of ignorance, in the principles of humility and servitude which enable great men such as himself to lead you in prayerful obedience . . . 

“And what a trip I been on! Permit me to enlighten you as to what is real and what ain’t real . . . Every aspect of your life must be examined—what you eat, what you drive, what you sit on, who you walk on, what you live in, what you sleep in, who you give money to . . . I know there are lots of artificial things that Satan tempts you to buy . . . Says, that shiny, gas-eatin’ car is better than the plain economy model, says frozen foods are better than fresh food, says two more inches of shag carpet can cushion you from the reality of everyday evil . . . Says pave those forests and level those trees . . . Says give that money to a flashy, pile-drivin’, triple-clutchin’, nonstop religion that only seeks to bankroll a few high-rollin’ reverends.

“But stop right there, hallelujah brothers, for I’m bringing you the message that will unseat Satan! Brother Human and all of us here at the Church of the Coincidental Metaphor are askin’ you for money. But in return we’re givin’ you that good-mileage economy religion, that natural divinity untainted by preservatives or man-made hype, that solid wood floor on which to build a real faith! Friends, our religion is no limousine; we got no continental kits; we’re not white-walled evangelists with padded dashes. We’re straight stick, standard shift, four-door everyday evangelists bringing you the non-polluted word. But even our little car burns gas, brothers, and we got no divine credit card. So help us out and send those dollars to Brother Human!”

Move over Marjoe, you ain’t heard nuthin’!

Leave the Tithin’ to Us

“Only believe, dear friends. All things are possible if you will only believe that Jesus is here . . . This is the Flame and the Sword program, broadcasting to you for the next 14½ minutes. So turn up your radios real loud and listen here to the word of God.”

And Brother Nolan Abernathy follows with this pledge: “If you’re sick and afflicted, you will be healed! If you need help, let us know and we will pray for you . . . And if you like the results, sit down again and send us another letter and enclose us a good offerin’. It takes lots of money to keep us turnin’ on God’s sunshine . . . Just listen to this letter: ‘Dear Brother Abernathy, thank you for the prayer cloth. I put it on my goiter and it is rapidly disappearing from my body!’ ” 

Then there is Brother Mack Watson of Hot Springs, Ark., clearly a man of many parts, public and semi-private. He not only heals the sick and props up the emotionally infirm, he quite literally transports his followers. Brother Watson will pray for you, of course, but also encloses free bottles of holy anointing oil on request; he will even send along a prayer cloth to apply to your sore places. For $699, or approximately the cost of Brinkley’s goat gland rejuvenation, he will take you with him on his “Holy Ghost Holy Land Tour” of Israel and Egypt:

“Folks, I don’t know but I’ll tell you something—God’s movin’ in this hour; there’s a rustlin’ in the mulberry bush; there’s a shakin’ in the earth . . . I’m holdin’ a prayer cloth in my hand right now, and God wants somebody to have it, and it may be you. Yes, Little Sister, you’re in trouble, you feel sometimes your mind is rippin’ apart; you feel pressure on every hand. Little Sister, let me send you a prayer cloth today, and I’ll personally pray over it, anoint it, lay my hands on it, for a miracle in your life . . . And let me talk about your tithin’. I desperately need your financial support. Maybe you’re not in church, or maybe you’ve been thrown out of the synagogue. Why not send your tithin’ to me? Maybe God will speak to you about it . . . And come with us to the holy lands next week . . .”

Did Jesus Have a Hairpiece?

Did Jesus wear long hair? Should whites marry Negroes? How Red is the National Council of Churches? These grave matters and myriad other spinoffs of social dislocation are confronted each evening on a program called “Pray for America,” out of Riverview, Fla., by way of Station XEG in Monterey. A little apocalypse music, please:

“If a man has long hair, it is a shame—the Bible documents it! The mark of the effeminate! A woman’s hair must be long enough to proclaim the glory of God, and a man’s must be short enough to prove he’s not a woman . . . Listen, these styles were started by dope addicts, perverts, draft-dodgers, and riffraff hippie cowards! Please believe me, the Reds think that if they can kill the national pride and patriotism of just one generation, by making readily available to them drugs, by praising their wildness, by strangling them with sex literature, they can destroy the whole nation. Now wouldn’t you love to have a copy of this? Write to us asking for Package No. 11 and, we’ll send it to you.”

Pastor Epley: Holy Spirit, Tingling Flesh

An evangelist is only as irresistible as the viscera he is willing to provoke, and Brother David Epley of St. Louis, Mo., (and XERF, Villa Acuna) massages the tender sensibilities of his flock with equal parts of pop music, prophecy and quivering sensuality.

Epley plugs “one of the great songs on our new album, the Many Moods of Pastor Epley,” ($5 postpaid), then gets right down to it in a manner reminiscent of Mick Jagger:

“Have you ever had the spirit of the Lord wake you at the midnight hour and begin to talk to you . . . when you felt the presence of another, so close to heaven you almost hear the fluttering of the angel’s wings? I was walking up and down the aisles of the big Henry Ford Auditorium in Detroit, led by the Holy Spirit, and I felt my flesh tingling, felt the spirit reach down and anoint my eyes with holy eye salve . . . 

“I could see beyond the flesh, beyond the spirit . . . Lady sitting way back there, come on down here, honey, the spirit is moving on me for you. Come down and let me wash your eyes. You’ve been praying for a spiritual touch, a spiritual anointing, and tonight you’re gonna get a double anointing—we call it Elijah’s Double Potion. A letter from me to you has had you all stirred up, hasn’t it? Now get out your little blue wallet and I’ll bless your wallet financially. And I’m going to wash your eyes with this water from the pool of Ceylon, and you’re gonna feel Elijah’s Double Potion come upon you . . .” Then there is only the sound of applause mixed with squeals of fear and delight.

Bill Brammer is on the staff of Texas Monthly.