The following transcription is from a series of recordings my father made in the early 1990s:
He was quite a character. He was from Pennsylvania. He followed his uncle down here. They drilled one of the first oil wells here on the Island. Uncle Wes stayed here and married my aunt, Lucille Steele.
I remember a lady, Geraldine Cruse Wycoff, had a fuzzy looking dog with hair all in its face. Uncle Wes had a little store where he also sold magazines and newspapers. Mrs. Geraldine came to get her paper and had her dog with her. When she got out of the car, the dog jumped out of the car with her.
Uncle Wes was standing out in front of his tore and jumped backwards. Mrs. Geraldine said, "Oh, Mr. Wes, he won't bite." Uncle Wes said, "Oh, I wasn't worried about that. He has his legs on backwards. I was afraid he was going to kick me!"
I've thought a lot about Uncle Wes through the years. I guess he had a pretty rough time being a yankee from Pennsylvania. He talked different. He came down here in the early 1920s when feelings were still pretty strong. He was an outsider.
I'll tell you one thing, he wasn't afraid of anybody. Several people tried him but they didn't try him but once.
|William Edward "Buck" Smith|
An old colored man, Bass McIntyre, told me about watching a fight between Uncle Wes and [William Edward] Buck Smith. Bass said he was an eyewitness to it. He said, "Mr. Wes whipped Mr. Buck." Buck Smith was known to be a fighter. He got the bad end of the deal with Uncle Wes.
Uncle Wes couldn't resist throwing a firecracker under somebody. He'd light a firecracker and throw it under somebody's feet walking down the street. Ole Bass was telling me that he was sitting on Whatley's old store porch and saw Buck Smith coming down the street with a bucket or pail of milk.
Buck had milked his cow and was bringing his bucket of milk down the street. Uncle Wes lit a firecracker and threw it down under Buck's feet and made him spill his milk. He turned and pointed toward Uncle Wes and said, "Mr. Wes, by god, I'm going to whip you!"
He started across there and got up close to Uncle Wes and Uncle Wes said, "Oh, don't fight me, Buck. Don't fight me!" Buck was coming on and Bass said Uncle Wes started punching at him with his left hand, just trying to hold him off. Every time Uncle Wes would hit him the blood would fly. All the time Uncle Wes was hitting Buck, he was saying, "Oh, don't fight me, Buck. Don't fight me!"
Buck finally ran in and grabbed Uncle Wes. They fell over an old harvester or plow out in front of the store. Bass said they were laying there down on the ground all wrapped up and Buck said, "You got enough, Wes?" Uncle Wes said, "I have if you have, Buck!" Ole Bass said there wasn't any doubt about it, Uncle Wes whipped Buck. Buck was bloody all over.
Mr. Reggie Cruse and his family moved in here about 1935 or 1936. They first lived in the old Ballard house across from the Methodist Church. After a few months’ time, they built a home up there where they had the sawmill, up the highway towards Wisner. They lived here the rest of their lives.
Mr. Cruse had four daughters. One of his daughters lived out in California. I didn’t know her. Geraldine married a Wycoff and they had one son, Reginald. Geraldine always worked for her father. Another daughter, Marie married a Henslee and lived for a long time over around Grayson. They finally moved here and lived the last years of their lives in Sicily Island. His youngest daughter, Mamie Dell, married Clarendon Peck. They had one child, Clarendon, Jr.
Mr. Cruse’s second wife was Lavilla Valentine. His first wife [Mamie Couey] was the mother of his children. When the Cruse family moved to Sicily Island, Mr. Reggie had remarried to Lavilla. His first wife died when Mamie Dell was just a baby.
|Wallace Gordon "Son" Henslee|
I remember a story I heard about Mr. Reggie Cruse talking to one of his grandsons, Wallace “Son” Henslee. Mr. Reggie was trying to get Son to go to college but Son didn’t want to go.
Mr. Reggie told him if he didn’t go to college he’d end up cutting cross ties and sawing logs. Son told him there had to be somebody to cut cross ties and saw logs.
Mr. Reggie told him that George Washington was out surveying land when he was Son’s age. Son said that was true but that George Washington was President of the United States when he was Mr. Reggie’s age.
The story ended there.
Note: Parts 1-36 of 'The Stories That Should Be Told' can be found in the Tags List on the right-hand side of the blog.