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A FAMILY FULL OF LEQENDS BY ELLEN WALKER RIENSTRA There's no need to go into Mrs. Rienstra's family background and her connection with the Big Thicket. She is the great-granddaughter of William Hooks and the granddaughter of Bud Hooks, two of the central characters in "A Family Full of Legends."F .E.A. The Big Thicket attracted a strange type of people to its abundance of timber and game. It abounded with mosquitoes, poisonous snakes, wildcats, bears, and wolves, and the people who came there were of necessity the hardiest of their species, a fact which they and their descendants were very proud of. Since the density of the Thicket prevented much unnecessary travel, the earliest pioneers had to be content with solitude . In fact, the Thicket, to most of them, was a refuge in which they could live their own particular lives as they wanted. To this day most of them still feel the same way. From the time that the first settlers penetrated its outer barriers until the present day, the Big Thicket exercised its influence on its people until gradually a unique way of life was formed. The people of the Thicket country evolved their own customs, manner of 181 182 72. Ellen Walker Rienstra. speech, and way of life. Such a land is invariably the mother of legends, and present-day members of old Thicket families treasure tales of the explOits of their own particular ancestors. The Hooks family typifies this process. In 1849, William Hooks and his wife, Martha, made their way in a covered wagon from Early County, Georgia, to East Texas. There were several reasons for their coming. There was at this time in the country a general fever to move westward, and William 's brother Augustus Hooks was married to a girl who had folks in Thicket country. Through them, t",les of the good living to be made there had reached Georgia. Also, William's wife and her sister, Sarah, married to William's brother Allen, had some family in Georgia, mostly their stepmother, that they were just as glad to be leaving. At any rate, William and Martha, called "Pap" and "Ma" by their twelve children, came to Texas and first settled across from Weiss Bluff on Belreaux Slough. After their son Tom almost 73. William Hooks (Pap) (Courtesy Dr. Allen Hooks) . drowned in the river, they moved briefly to Spurger, and then to a farm slightly south of Kountze, where the majority of their children were born. They are buried near this farm. Pap was a physically small man, standing about 5' 8" in his bare feet. He had a short, full beard and a thick head of hair, which he kept all his life. His daughter Dode said she only saw him clean-shaven one time, and she didn't like it at all. Old John Sims, who used to pass Pap's house carrying freight to Town Bluff, used to say that he could remember Pap standing out by a stump in his front yard, looking like a "big hairy animal" reading the Galveston News. He was a shrewd man, and, after some years of raising cotton and sugar cane for syrup, was somewhat better off money-wise than his neighbors. He kept his money in his loft, and when he needed any of it, he would send his boys after it. The story goes that Pap and a Mr. Holland were the ones who determined the sheriff of Hardin County; the sheriff had to put up a certain 183 184 TALES FROM THE BIG TIDCKET amount of bond to run for office, and Pap and Mr. Holland were the only ones who could afford to put it up. Like all his family, Pap had a great affection for his kinfolk, and would immediately jump to their defense on any matter, regardless of how small. However, he wasn't much for visiting. His brother Jim, of whom Pap was very fond, lived in Spurger. He hadn't seen him in ten years. At one time he had business in Spurger, and after he had finished it, he started toward home with the intention of stopping in to see his brother, whose house was on the way. Just on the other side of his brother's house, he met a man on a mule who he knew was a local fellow. He stopped him and asked him if he knew his brother Jim. The man...


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