grandfather on my mother's side was Samuel Butler Williams. He stood only five
feet tall, and he was as feisty as a bantam rooster, thus his nickname, Sam Banty.
He came from Alabama, but not with a banjo on his knee. He came with a wife, six
kids, and a sharp knife. He was a butcher by trade. I never found out why he chose
Vivian, Louisiana for a new home, and by the time I thought to ask, there was
nobody around to tell me. I didn't realize until I heard the eulogy at his funeral
that he was one of the pioneers who gave birth to the city. I heard the minister
extol how he helped map out the streets and name them. At one time a large percentage
of the population of Vivian was kin to either the Williamses or the Lesters. |
of my earliest memories were of Sam's telling stories from long before the turn
of the century. Later, I studied the Civil War in school, but what was recorded
in our history books was mild compared to the events he revealed to me. Sam was
too young to fight in the conflict, but he saw much of the aftermath of the battles.
The horror of it stayed with him for the rest of his life.
When he entertained
me with tales of yesteryear, he would speak with the salty language he had used
all his life. I know some of the other adults in the house didn't approve of it,
but he was the master in his own home, and no one told him what to do. I never
grew tired of hearing of his many adventures. As he described each detail of his
escapades, I could clearly picture them in my mind.
As modern society
advanced, the rest of the family rejoiced when a new bathroom was installed inside
the house. My grand father, however, would have no part of it. He refused to give
up his old-fashioned ways and continued to use the facility out back. One day
he asked my grand mother if she would cook cabbage for dinner. She said it was
out of the question because it would stink up the house. He pointed to the bathroom
and asked why it was all right to do that in the house but cooking cabbage was
prohibited (I cleaned that up a bit).
Many were the times Sam would hitch
up his horse, Dolly, to a two-wheeled buggy for a fishing trip Monterrey Lake.
It was about a five-mile trip, taking us well over an hour to get there, but that
didn't matter. It gave us more time together. His eyesight was rapidly deteriorating,
so he couldn't tell when his bobber went under. I had to shout to him, "Granddaddy,
you got a bite!" Sometimes, I would be daydreaming and forget until he felt the
tug on his line, but he never scolded me for it.
During the last few years
of his life, before he died at age 88, I noticed how the grownups would ignore
him. When he tried to tell them how his day had gone, no one would pay any attention
to him. They treated him as if he were a babbling little child. Sam Banty was
no longer the master in his own house. I was only fifteen at his passing, but
I thought ahead to my twilight years. I hoped that, when I talked, people would
listen to me.