Brothers and Sisters, please put your hands together for Ronald Earl Pettway, aka Little Texas–the faith-healing child evangelist who takes the spotlight in R.A. Nelson’s latest novel, DAYS OF LITTLE TEXAS (Knopf, 2009).
Ronald Earl’s youth is scarred by tragedy. His father is sent to prison for growing marijuana in the crawl space under their trailer home. Soon afterward, his mother’s corpse is discovered among the wreckage of a meth lab explosion. Miss Wanda Joy King—his great aunt, a sturdy Pentecostal woman—provides the newly orphaned boy with food and shelter, but not much else.
Ronald Earl’s watching old-time evangelist Sugar Tom Walker preach up a storm in San Angelo, Texas, when Fate comes knockin’ at his front door. Thunder clouds roll in, and a bolt of lightening strikes his friend, Certain Certain. When Ronald Earl lays a comforting hand on his motionless chest, the old man’s body shudders back to life. “You resurrected him!” a bystander cries, and when someone hands him a microphone, he gives an electrifying speech to an enthusiastic audience. “Ten years old, and the Holy Ghost comes up inside me for the very first time,” he marvels.
And thus begins Little Texas’s faith-healing ministry. Throngs of believers flock to his services, chanting his name and expecting miracles. Sugar Tom and Certain Certain serve as stage hands, while Miss Wanda Joy acts as Chief Operating Officer in his evangelical enterprise.