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TALES FROM UNCLE OWEN BY LOIS WILLIAMS PARKER The end of the Civil War was the end of Andrew Jackson Williams as a small plantation owner in Alabama. He was fifty years old in 1865 and past the time in life when a man usually thinks about making a fresh start. But his part of Alabama was a waste, and there was nothing to do but to see what could be made of what was left in life. The family, which included six children and one on the way, sailed from Mobile to Southeast Texas in the early fall of 1865 and built their first house in the Big Thicket on the bank of Steep Bank Creek. The Williams iust naturally took to sawmilling in the Thicket. Jackson had done some lumbering in Alabama, and his sonsDave , Jep, and Owen-took up where he left off, rafting logs down Village Creek and the Neches to the Beaumont mills. By the turn of the century they were prospering lumbermen, furnishing timbers for the rigs and plank roads of the Saratoga, Batson, and Sour Lake oil fields. Dave opened his big mill in 1904. The location was first known as Williams' Station, but because there was another Williams, Texas, the name was changed to Thicket. Dave and his son Lee operated sawmills all over the Big Thicket . Uncle Owen worked with them for many years as a sawyer, but he leaned more to socializing and politicking than to fighting saw logs. Some tales were told on Uncle Owen, too. They say that when 155 156 62. Lois Williams Parker. he was running for state representative, the main plank in his platform was a promise to get the dates of the squirrel season changed for the Big Thicket district. When he finally got his bill passed in Austin he felt that he had accomplished his political purpose, so he didn't run again. And then there was the time when he was the deputy sherif} and heard that a Negro bootlegger was getting of} the train at Bragg Station with a suitcase load of shinny. Uncle Owen was there to meet him and he qUickly told the big Negro that law had him. Something went wrong, however, between the "You're under arrest" and the handcuffing, and the next thing Uncle Owen knew he was lying on the ground by the tracks, looking into the syrup-bucket-size barrel of his own .44. The bootlegger gave him a good cussing and then took Uncle Owen's boots and his horse and headed into the woods to peddle his moonshine. Uncle Owen had a long, barefooted walk back to Honey Island. Lois Williams Parker, the author of "Tales from Uncle Owen," was Lee's daughter and Owen's great niece, and as such grew up in the Thicket to the musical accompaniment of a mill whistle and a circle saw.-F.E.A. 63. Uncle Owen on the gallery (Courtesy Lois Williams Parker) . Uncle Owen was the depot agent at Honey Island in the Big Thicket; he was also deputy sheriff and district representative to the state legislature. Besides that, he was the justice of the peace and notary public, a Baptist, and a Mason. A good percentage of the Hardin County population were his nieces and nephews, and to 99 percent of the people he was Uncle Owen. To the other one percent he was W. O. It was a rare night in my childhood when we didn't walk down to Uncle Owen's after supper. In the summer, spring, or fall, and all but the coldest nights of winter, we sat on the front gallery. My own sharpest memories of these occasions are Uncle Owen's accounts of the happenings of the day in Honey Island. Some were 157 158 TALES FROM THE BIG THICKET not meant for my ears, but these are the ones that I heard most distinctly and remembered the longest, despite the low talk and whispers . It was easy to need a drink of water if Daddy and Uncle Owen were talking near the end of the gallery where the bucket and dipper were. A lot of funny things happened in Honey Island, to hear him tell it. In those days before radio, the arrival of the morning train brought the news of the world in the Beaumont Enterprise. Uncle Owen could hardly wait to close up the depot and get home to drink the coffee he...


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