Recent Posts
Lowell Brueckner

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

What Our Hands Have Handled, chapter four




Grandpa Doxtator, Bill,
Ethel, and children
Bill and Ethel Doxtator’s house, in a village 80 miles north of Milwaukee, was a demon’s paradise. Alcohol played a huge role in the fear and unhappiness, which reigned supreme day after miserable day. One can only imagine the terror that must have gripped the two children, Marvin and Marcella, as they watched their mother and father chasing each other with knives.

As can be surmised easily, the children did not escape the violence. They suffered severe beatings at the hands of their drunken dad. Often, there was not enough in the house to eat. For Ethel, it became more than she could bear. Her professed religion was powerless against the forces that governed their conduct and laid claim to their souls. The present was intolerable and – what promise was there of any change or hope for the future? It only offered more darkness and despair.

Ethel was addicted to nicotine. The Doxtator’s were very poor, so she had to stoop low to feed her habit. She employed her children in picking up cigarette butts alongside the highway. She offered to sweep the dance hall floor, in order to collect the butts. As she sat at her table at home, she would set a small pile of butts beside her plate, some barely long enough to light without burning her fingers.

An evil thought entered Ethel’s mind. She must end this painful existence – this mockery of a life. Arsenic mixed into the food would stop the suffering for her children, her husband and herself. The thought took hold upon her mind, conquering all will to live.

One day, she decided it was time to take action to fulfill her inner musings. Today, she would buy the poison. She left the house and walked down the street towards the village drugstore. She reached for the door and pushed, but it didn’t give. Then she saw the sign posted – “CLOSED INDEFINITELY, due to the death of the proprietor.”

On a Saturday shortly thereafter, Bill was in the Quinney Dance Hall, drinking as usual. Before the day was over, it was likely he would get into a fight with someone. It was the Quinney Homecoming, celebrated every year, and the little village was bursting at its seams. People came from towns and country for miles around. During a pause in the dancing, he heard musical strains coming from outside the hall. With many others, he pushed his way out the door to discover a dozen or so people playing instruments alongside the highway.
As the curious partygoers gathered around the musicians, they noticed that the words of the song were religious. However, the melody was good and lively, so they continued to listen, as the group played one song after another. The crowd grew. Then a thin man, about six feet tall with a violin in his hand, stepped to the fore. He laid the violin in its case and picked up a Bible.

He said that his name was Erwin Brueckner and that, until a few months back, he had been a sinful, drinking son of a Milwaukee bartender. One night in the first gospel meeting he had ever attended, his life was dramatically transformed. The change was so thrilling and powerful, that he could not be quiet about it. Due to his testimony, others had come to Christ and, in fact, he had recently helped a dying Indian man find hope in Christ. This man, Tony Doxtator, had asked him to make this trip from Milwaukee to share the good news with his relatives. Bill must have been astounded at this information. Tony was his brother!

Then Erwin Brueckner began to declare the message of God’s salvation, which He had provided, in order that lost men and women could find hope for this life and the life to come. If they were willing to turn from the self-directed, sinful life they were living and trust Christ to save and change them, then they could do so now. He asked for a show of hands of those willing to receive Christ on the spot. Bill’s hand went up along with thirteen others.

I often heard my dad and mom talk of that first weekend in Quinney. They told how a lady asked them to hold Sunday services in a little chapel on her property. They said that the ‘String Band’, the group of amateur musicians accompanying Erwin on his evangelistic endeavor, spent the rest of the Saturday cleaning the building. At the same time, they spoke to the Doxtator’s - Bill, his father, his brothers, Charlie and John. They liked what they had heard. Grandpa Doxtator, Bill, and Charlie all prayed to receive Christ into their lives. John offered a room in his house, so the dozen or so in the group could spend the night. They didn’t get much sleep though, all together in one crude room lying on the floor, but they had a great time! Humorous comments were raised about the mice scurrying across the room in the darkness.

Ethel Doxtator’s reaction was exactly the opposite of her husband’s. She was angry and so was her sister Frieda, John’s wife. They both had religious inclinations and had been taught to beware of anyone who bore another ‘brand’ of religion, different from their own. Ethel did her best to avoid any contact with these invaders from Milwaukee. Arguments broke out that night in both houses.

Frieda told Ethel the next day, how the visitors prayed and carried on half the night. My dad had a rather large nose, which had been broken on a couple occasions and when he approached Ethel to share a little of the gospel, she made no effort to hide her contempt of him. “I’ve never seen such a nose on a person’s face!” she spat out angrily. He took this insult quietly and his wife, Alice, observed with a big smile.

The next week they were back again. They had a building now in which to hold their services and the Brueckner family even found a house to rent. They were moving into the area! They seemed to be getting their way with every intention. This infuriated Ethel, but that which most raised her ire was their insistence that she was a sinner! She would leave the house, whenever Erwin would pay a visit. One time, however, she was home alone, when she saw him drive into the yard. She quickly collected a bit of excrement and smeared it on the front door knob. When Dad entered the house, he calmly asked for a little water to wash his hands. It seemed, no amount of offensive treatment could discourage him.

This manner of conduct was so different from the outbursts of anger, cursing, and even physical violence to which Ethel was accustomed. Little by little, it began to soften her heart. One day, while listening to the radio, she heard a gospel program. She was sitting in a chair with her feet propped on the kitchen range, puffing a cigarette. The preacher terminated his message with a question, “Is there anyone listening, who would like to receive Christ?” Ethel nodded her head and raised her hand, cigarette between her fingers.
From that time, her resistance crumbled. She stayed at home when the Brueckner’s came for a visit. She attended the home Bible studies and even went to church with her family.
“They told me they were praying for me,” she commented, “God breaks us down when we’re stubborn. I didn’t know that God was dealing with me, but they did. I couldn’t get over how nice they were. They were so kind to me. My ears were finally opened and I acknowledged I was a sinner. After two years, I was saved. They all swarmed around me and were so lovable.”

Though she only had a third-grade education, Ethel became an avid student of the word of God. She would sit for hours before the radio, listening to a Christian station out of Chicago, notebook and Bible in hand. Eventually, she became a Sunday School teacher and those who attended considered it a unique privilege to hear her teach. She would speak with a low, soft voice in her Native American manner, applying lessons from nature to Biblical principles.

Others of the Doxtator family came to the Lord much later, some after the Brueckner’s had left the area and, in one case, even after Erwin had died. Frieda continued to oppose the gospel long after her sister accepted Christ. When she lay in a hospital bed dying, Ethel again shared the gospel with her. She left the room, but felt a very definite urge to return for one last word. This time, Frieda begged, “Oh, Ethel, pray for me!” She came to hope in Christ before she died.

I remember my dad praying for John Doxtator for years in our family devotions. He had been very sympathetic to the folksfrom Milwaukee and even had offered his home for them to spend the night. However, he did not become a believer or attend Quinney Chapel. Shortly before the Brueckner family moved away to Minnesota, my sister, Phyllis, married Bill and Ethel’s son, Marvin. Phyllis and Marvin continued to live in the area. Many years later, several years after Dad died, Phyllis worked at a senior citizens’ home in a town not far from Quinney. One day, a ninety-year-old man entered the home and Phyllis began the induction process.

“Just a minute,” he interrupted her as she began to fill out the papers, “I want to talk to you about your dad. Fifty years ago, he shared the gospel with me. I didn’t accept his invitation to receive Christ and now, I’ve wasted my life.”
“But it’s not too late,” my sister replied, “Jesus will still receive you.”
As she continued to talk to him, tears ran down old John Doxtator’s face and he obtained the gift of eternal life.


Post a Comment