Bulldog’s given name was James Bullard, and I believe that is where the nick name originated, but it fit Bulldog like a glove. He was short, (he claimed he was 5' 6",) but built broad and stocky, with a large round face. He looked like the cartoon bulldog, and people knew by looking at him that he was tough. Bulldog was a happy puppy however, and always had a smile on his face and a joke on the ready. Bulldog was also loud. One usually heard Bulldog coming long before you saw him.
Eventually Bulldog got me a job with the company he worked with. He became my teacher and mentor, and was always my friend. I rode all over Texas in Bulldog’s mini van, listening and laughing at his stories. Sometimes I would beg him to stop, just so that I could catch my breath. His stories were funny but never mean, and he was the butt of most of his jokes. My favorite Bulldog story was that of his baptism.
Bulldog grew up in Walker County, and as a 13 year old boy attended a Baptist Church in Riverside, between Trinity and Huntsville. He remembered the sermon on the day of his baptism because it was a fire and brimestone sermon given by the new preacher in that church. That week Bulldog had been caught by the local police driving home from buying cigarettes in town in the family car. He did not know if his parents were mad because he borrowed the car without telling them, or if it was because he drove off without a license or if it was because he was smoking at such a young age. It was probably a combination. They took him to church to see if God could straighten him out.
At the end of the service the preacher announced, " I hear we are going to baptize us a sinner today." The way he said it puzzled Bulldog, it was not a statement of joy of salvation, it was more like saying, " we are going to butcher us a pig for dinner." As the congregation stood to sing a hymn, Bulldog’s father stepped out into the main isle, bringing Bulldog with him. His mother followed, and with his parents holding him by the arm they walked to the front of the church. Bulldog now knew the sinner to be baptized was him! He brother Jules was grinning as he looked down from the choir. Jules was not a good singer, but was very interested in a young lady in the choir.
As Bulldog looked out at the congregation he saw the ushers were blocking the exits. He looked at the preacher, and could see his dark black eyes digging into Bulldog’s very soul. He noticed his bushy gray eyebrows, and thought it strange the preacher had gray eyebrows but jet black hair. As his mother helped him off with his jacket he knew there was no escape, he decided to take his baptism like a man.
The preacher began to ask Bulldog questions. "Do you reject Satan and evil? The answer is ‘I will’, and do you accept Jesus I promise to live according to his teachings? If so answer in the same way." Bulldog thought it was loading the deck to ask a question and then tell the guy what to answer, but he was in no position to argue. "I will," he said.
The preacher put on a white robe and lead him into the baptistry. The congregation sang another song as the preacher told Bulldog what he was about to do. He told him to relax. That the preacher would hold him as he lay he back into the water and would submerge Bulldog to wash away all his sins. Bulldog had seen other people baptized by other preachers so he knew the drill.
What Bulldog did not know was that this preacher would immerse for each part of the Trinity. It would go, in the name of the Father,(dunk,) Son, (dunk,) and Holy Ghost, (dunk.) After he lay Bulldog back for the first dunk, Bulldog thought he was done. As the preacher pushed him back for the "Son" dunk, Bulldog panicked. As he panicked he lost his balance and reached up to grab the preacher, pulling both under water. As he resurfaced he understood why the preacher had gray eyebrows but black hair. It was because of the wet, black toupee that was in Bulldogs right hand.
The entire congregation was startled. Bulldog did not know if it was because of the botched baptism or the fact their new pastor wore a wig, but he did see the preacher coming towards him. He threw the wig at him and tried to climb out the back of the baptistry, but the preacher caught him and was pulling him back. Bulldog was genuinely frightened and cried for help, and it came. Brother Jules vaulted out of the choir loft and came to his little brother’s rescue. Jules was a scrapper. He dove onto the preacher and began to land right crosses on the man of God.
Bulldog climbed out and made his escape down the isle. The lady who played the piano started to play a song. Bulldog thought it was "take me out to the ball game," but deep down knew it must have been some other hymn. He did not care who would try to stop him. He knew his father would be mad and would discipline his wayward son, and Bulldog did not want to be beat in front of God and the congregation. Bulldog made it outside, and by the time he got to the family car he was out of breath, confused, and dripping wet. The preacher was rescued from Jules. He was also wet, and was bald and had a bloody lip.
The next week the sermon was the sin of vanity. It was given by the preacher who was no longer wearing his toupee. That is what the Bullards were told. Bulldogs parents were too embarrassed to ever go back to that church and Jules was thrown out of the choir and rebuffed by the young lady. The family worshiped in Huntsville from them on, but not often.
The incident made an impression on the young Bulldog. He never stole another car or smoked another cigarette. He grew up and graduated from Huntsville Highschool, went into the navy, got out and played football at Del Mar Junior College in Corpus Christi and at Trinity University in San Antonio. After getting married he and his wife were looking for a church home. As they were interviewing as prospective church, the pastor asked Bulldog if his was baptized. "Mostly," he replied, " and I would rather not try that again!"
I know God has a since of humor. I have faith that He was looking down on that incident sixty odd years ago with a smile on His face. Possibly, He was even laughing. Bulldog has gone on now, and I do miss him. He still makes me laugh when I remember his walk, his smile, and his baptism.