I’m Fred Bishop and I write a column for the Stopgap, Oklahoma bi-weekly Bulletin. The other day, Oliver “Wood-Eye” Gleason, asked me for a favor. He’s a good friend and a semi-retired cattle rancher. Lately he’s become interested in genealogy.
Why do I call him Wood-Eye? Well, one day he rode his horse, Gumshoe, along his fence line. An armadillo reared up and spooked the animal real bad. Gumshoe cut loose a gurgled whinny, broke into a trot, stopped short…and humped its back in a giant shrug of a buck. Wood-Eye rocketed out of the saddle like an astronaut. When he touched down, his face slammed into the thumb of his right hand and his eyeball popped out like a ping-pong ball. It ricocheted off a flat rock straight into the brush.
Old doc Jenkins tried to sell him a simulated eyeball made of painted ebony; however the one-eyed man wouldn’t go for it. He yelled at the doc and said he was nuts if he thought he’d wear a hunk of wood in his head. Instead, he opted for an eye patch made from rattle-snake skin. The funny thing is, when the story got around, everybody began to call him wood-eye, even though he wears the patch.
Wood-Eye asked me to research some of his ancestors. He never owned a computer and has no plans to buy one. One morning, at Digby’s Diner, over a few sinkers and coffee,he said he’d like to learn more about his ancestors. He asked me to check out the historical records for Penelope Whitman and Hugo Winters. They were his kin, and lived in the late 1800’s. I agreed, and said I’d get back to him.
Later in the week, I called a friend; she’s the president of a genealogical society. I outlined my plight, and gave her the names. “Give me a few hours Fred and I’ll get back to you.” She called back in an hour and had everything I needed. She does great work, and e-mailed her findings to me.
It turns out that Hugo Winters was a snake oil sales rep. He worked a string of cities from Appalachia to California. As a result of business deals gone wrong, and a few broken bones, two gunshot wounds, and a very close call with a lynch mob, Hugo sold his business, bought a mule, and died looking for gold in the mountains of California.
Penelope Whitman’s history evolved around interesting happenings. She married a preacher. People called him a “circuit rider.” He spread the Word far and wide, and still managed to sire three, very handsome, young men.
The preacher’s residence was the biggest and most beautiful place around. He owned another property in town, too. It was a boarding house, of sorts. People talked, in hushed whispers, about the income the boarding house produced…especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
One day, the preacher had a heart attack just outside of town. He died in his saddle, hat still on, and his bible sticking out of a saddlebag. His horse carried him; straight to the place he knew best, the boarding house. Penelope joined her husband, nine years later.
Sixteen young women, all in black, and expensively perfumed, attended her funeral service. Apparently, they were her most favored employees.
I called Wood-Eye and told him I’d completed the search and that I had the information he wanted. We agreed to meet the next morning at Digby’s. We arrived at about the same time, found a vacant table inside the place, and ordered sinkers and coffee. About an hour later, Wood-Eye thanked me for the research, took the large envelope I handed him, shook my hand, and paid our tab.
I saw him a few weeks later. He was riding his Kawasaki four-wheeler along his fence line. He waved when I drove by. I wonder why he never again mentioned his kin?
— Ted Atoka