A "circuit," nowadays is called a "charge," was a geographical area that encompassed two or more local churches. Local Methodist pastors would met with their bishops annually for appointment to either a new circuit or remain at the same one, most often they were moved to another circuit. Once a pastor was assigned a circuit, it was his responsibility to visit each church in his charge at least once a year in addition to possibly erecting new churches. Because of the long distance between churches, the preachers would ride on horseback. They were called "circuit riders" or "saddlebag preachers." They traveled with few possessions, carrying only what would fit in their saddlebags. They traveled through wilderness and villages, they preached every day at any place available such as peoples' cabins, courthouses, fields, meeting houses, later, even basements and street corners. Unlike preachers of settled denominations, Methodist preachers were always on the move (most circuits were so large that it would take 5 to 6 weeks to cover their assignment). This is what boosted Methodism into the largest Protestant denomination at the time; bringing the church to the common people.
My model was the first rider out in last year's 2006 Annual Mountain Man Rendezvous in Pinedale Wyoming. He was so striking and stood out from all the other actors. He rode out on a beautiful "Blue Roan". The horse appeared to be all black (actually black hair with silver mixed in) that matched the man's all black regalia from hat to boots. The man just blew me away. I turned to Leigh and made the quick statement, "that preacher is a painting for sure." The man even nodded at me as if he knew on his last ride by us. After the event they announced that most of the actors would be available for photographs. We made a beeline straight over to the man. It was spitting rain the whole time we were there, the sky looked like it would open anytime. As we introduced ourselves the rain stopped but the grey sky remained. The man was so gracious to pose in whatever position we asked. As I directed the shots, I don't know why, but I asked him to please look back over his right shoulder. I even heard Leigh react to the two-second preview in her camera's LCD screen. I knew it was going to be "the shot."
It wasn't until weeks later that the title came to me while listening to Don Henley of the Eagles singing the lyrics to "The Last Resort." The spiritual song is about the settlers moving across the plains seeking and praying for the next "paradise." I was studying Leigh's photograph of the circuit preacher as the song played. It was at that moment that it hit me. There was a reason that I had asked for the "look over the shoulder." The title came to me like a revelation.
Proudly I present to you, Festus Krause of Cora, Wyoming. Festus was playing the part of a 1860-1870 era "Circuit Rider," Marcus Wittman. Festus is actually a rancher and works the oil fields outside of Pinedale, Wyoming. Festus is a "class-act." Even though he is not a "real" preacher, he is a man to be well-respected. Thank you, my good friend. This piece measures 18” x 24,” medium is traditional oils on “Claybord,” gesso-coated Masonite. Original is for Sale- $8000