At 93, Bill Williams had good stories to tell

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

Bill E. Williams was born one mile east of Castor on his daddy's farm. He moved away, then returned to live with his wife Nancy on those same acres owned by the Williams family. At age 93, he was one of the oldest minds around and was full of stories he liked to tell. He sometimes had difficulty in getting his stories to come out in proper sequence, but patience yielded rich anecdotes of the early 1900s in Northwest Louisiana.

"I remember those days just like they were yesterday," Williams said. "My daddy's place was about a mile out of town, and as a young boy I worked at Clarence Rickard's Commissary. The Commissary was located east of Castor on what is now Ridge Road, across from the old Chandler house. Part of my job was to pick up supplies and groceries brought in by train once a week. We worked most days until late, and on Fridays we would close at 7 o'clock and socialize a little. Sausages came in gallon tins back then, and my boss always opened a tin for his workers to eat. Nothing tastes quite as good as those sausages did back then."

"There were seven lines of railroad track extending from Castor to Chandler's Logging Camp just east of Castor Creek. The old steam engines could pull up to 35 cars full of logs harvested from an area laced with railroad tramways." It is hard to visualize a logging community such as the one Williams described. There is no trace to be found today of that former settlement, but Williams had a vivid memory and took the time to make the past come alive for us again.

"Growing up, we boys would stay in town late on weekends and listen for the train to come in. The engineer had a way with that train whistle. He would start blowing miles up the track to signal the depot agent he was coming," Williams said. "Lory Williams was the depot agent back then and it would sound like the whistle was saying 'L-O-R-Y WILLIAMS! GET-ME-SOME-ORDERS!'" Lory would have the orders listed and hung out on the pole for the engineer to catch as he went by the Castor Depot. The train would go on down, pick up whatever cars were ready down at Alberta or Chandler's Camp, then take them back on their way to Stamps, Arkansas.

"There were a lot of country dances back then," Williams continued. "Somebody would always bring some bootleg whiskey to liven up the dance. I was just an old boy and I drank my share of that," he laughed. "I remember one occasion where things kind of got out of hand. There was a fight. Somebody got cut up, and the folks giving the dance decided to shut things down. They pushed the troublemakers out the door and left a few of us inside. My friend took exception to that since he was one of the troublemakers pushed outside. He gathered up an armload of stove wood and each time someone would try to come outside, he would fling a stick against the door--Kerwhap!"

"He managed to keep everybody inside for a long with that, but finally I got tired and wanted to go home," he continued. "I got a stick up side my had when I went out the door. Finally, after I got over being mad, I put my hands on his arms and persuaded him to let's go home."

"We had rode to the dance on my friend's horse, and the bootleg we had taken in didn't help our efforts to mount up. He would get up on one side and fall off the other. I would do the same," he laughed. "Finally, we both managed to get on the horse at the same tim and head home. When we got to the lane heading to my house, he let me off. He didn't want to chance facing my Dad and both of us drinking."

"I slipped into the house that night trying not to wake anybody, and Daddy wouldn't know I had been in a scrape. The next morning, Dad went to town early. When he came home I knew he had heard the story from the night before, and I was in trouble. He called me out on the front porch, and you know, the old man had been crying. I had expected to be hit up side the head, but my Daddy's crying really got to me. He started right into counsel me about the trouble I was in."

"Son," he began, "I heard what happened last night, and I just want you to know how disappointed I am in you. I want you to always remember this day, and I am going to give you some rules to live the rest of your life by. Rule number one is to always pay your just debts. Rule number two is to let your word be your bond. Rule three is, Now son, I can't be with you all the time and I know that I can't keep you from drinking. But son, just don't be no hog about it!"

Bill Williams wound up in the District Attorney's office for questioning about the knifing incident. Seems the DA's main concern was who was furnishing the bootleg whiskey. After intense questioning and pressure from the elder Williams, the young man identified the bootlegger. He was the Justice of the Peace from a neighboring town.