| Columns | "They
shoe horses, don't they?"
Bring Me the
My Least Favorite Nephew
Getting what you wish for
in Marlin, Texas, 1908
In back of many lunch counters and cash registers in Texas and around
the South, there is a sign that states: "If Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't
Nobody Happy." It is mildly amusing if it was a family member who
put the sign up. It isn't funny at all if "mama" herself put it up.
This is a story of a son who tried to please "mama" a little too enthusiastically
certain parts of Louisiana, life in Falls
County, Texas could sometimes be a little scary. And like Louisiana,
it was widely known that you could pretty much trust your friends
- while it was your family you really needed to watch.
This tale of teenage obedience and decapitation comes from the entertaining
memoirs of Waco
newspaper publisher W. S. Foster - a man who knew a good story
when he heard one. In this particular case, Mr. Foster (while submerged
in boyhood himself) witnessed firsthand what happened when a Marlin
mother and son had a "failure to communicate."
The story, as it often is with murder, is short and Mr. Foster's terse
writing only touches on the barest of facts. Foster relates that he
was "about a dozen years old" when his family moved to Marlin,
county seat of Falls. The year was something like 1908. He refers
to the incident as a "gruesome happening" strangely, those are the
same words used decades later to describe the gathering at Woodstock,
story (at last):
day a boy named "Bus" (no explanation is given for this unusual name)
Wyers heard his mother say she wouldn't be satisfied until a certain
nephew's head was hung from the front porch of her home. It's possible
Mrs. Wyers may have had some novel ideas on porch décor, but more
likely she was expressing displeasure at some childhood prank or misdemeanor
performed by her nephew. Bus, however, took his mother's wish as a
Soon after her spoken request, under one pretext or another, Bus lured
his cousin to a nearby creek where the "gruesome happening" took place.
The hapless boy's head was indeed placed on the Wyers family porch
albeit briefly. Unfortunately Mr. Foster omitted any mention of the
mother's reaction in his story. Presumably Bus was given a serious
sermon on figurative vs. literal speech and the incident undoubtedly
caused a severe family rift.
After its appearance on the porch, the boy's head was taken back to
the scene of the crime and buried in the creek bank. The boy's body,
however, was laid out at a Marlin
undertaking parlor - one that was run by Mr. Foster's Uncle.
The Foster family operated a restaurant right next door to the undertaker.
1908 Texas was nothing if not a practical place and people could enjoy
a home-cooked meal and between courses pay their respects to departed
friends and neighbors. Or else choose a casket and then grab something
to eat before returning home.
Mr. Foster described the visit by simply writing: "We all went to
see the body without a head, lying on the slab." The head was sent
for a second time and brought back for a reunion and proper burial.
Bus was apprehended, (Now, you just march yourself down to the sheriff's
office, young man..") tried and sentenced to 99 years. But he somehow
managed to become one of the few people to escape from the custody
of the Falls County
sheriff. He enjoyed freedom for some time, if you call living under
your girlfriend's porch and eating leftovers freedom. Bus served two
years in Huntsville
before being pardoned by one or the other of the Governors Ferguson.
This tragic and macabre case shows that "the good old days" weren't
always peaches and cream - at least in Falls
County, Texas - about 1908.
© John Troesser
shoe horses, don't they?"
September 7, 2003 column
Source: Observations: A Compilation of Events in Texas History
by W. S. Foster, Founder of the Waco Citizen, Waco Texas, 1976
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