Monday, June 9, 2008


My dad knew my maternal great grandfather. That was common in rural areas early in the last century.

Americans had settled down. Almost everyone was farming. Technology dictated that you would not hear of many jobs that were beyond a few miles walk and even if you did, you could not commute more than a few miles. So most people stayed in one place and married someone that lived close by.

Dad said Wiley was peculiar. He wore a white suit and carried a parasol when he went in to town. He fixed watches and shoes, which was unusual in an age where almost everybody farmed. And if you visited him, he would tell you, "I had my gun on you from back when you turned off the main road."

Wiley had reason to watch the road and keep his gun handy.

The first man Wiley killed owned a big sugar cane field near Wiley's home in Mississippi. The man rode up on his horse and found Wiley walking by the field with pocket knife out chewing on a stalk of the man's cane. The man said, "That's my cane."

Wiley replied, "I'll pay you a nickel for it."

The man said, "That ain't good enough. I'm going to get off this horse and give you a beating."

Wiley said, "If you get off that horse, I'll kill you."

So he did.

As far as I know we have only Wiley's word on the particulars of the incident, but relatives on mom's side attest that Wiley killed the man about some sugar cane.

Wiley's knife, mutual threats, and walking down the road also led to Wiley's second killing. Wiley was walking by a plantation where a party was being thrown. The owner's dogs came out and threatened Wiley, so he pulled his knife.

The owner saw the commotion and told Wiley, "If you hurt my dogs, I'm going to kill you."

Wiley said, "Call your dogs off or I'll kill them, then I'll kill you.

The man did not call off the dogs. Wiley killed them. Then he killed the plantation owner.

It is bad form to kill rich people, so Wiley had to leave the state in a trunk in the back of a wagon. That is when he moved into my dad's neighborhood.

One of Wiley's daughters was seeing a man that Wiley did not approve of. At one point the man was meeting her to take her into town and Wiley told her, "If you go up that road to meet him, I'll kill you."

She did. The bullet that Wiley put in her back did not kill her or permanently injure her, but her wound was serious.

One of his sons-in-law named Dertinger got Wiley arrested--nobody remembers what for. I am not sure if Dertinger was the man that Wiley nearly killed his daughter over. When Wiley got out of jail, he stuck his finger in Dertinger's face and said, "You're a dead man."

Months later, Dertinger disappeared. Wiley spread word that Dertinger told him that he was going to Florida to pick oranges.

My paternal grandfather visited Wiley some time after that. Grandpa had been hunting on Bear Creek and found a mound of dirt that looked like a grave. Grandpa told Wiley, "Mr. Edwards, off the Bear Creek trail I saw where someone had buried a man."

Wiley leveled his finger at Grandpa and said, "You ain't seen nothing, Lonnie. You understand?"

Grandpa said, "Yes sir, I sure do."

Grandpa never told the story until after Wiley died. He was not interested in moving to Florida to pick oranges.

No comments: