GRANDPA'S HAT

by Mike Peters

A young boy reared in Texas understands the concepts of bad and good.  Bad guys are evil, never get the girl and usually end up in jail or dead.  The bad guy's attire is always black.  Good guys are polite, always win the fair maiden's hand and ride off into the sunset.  Good guys wear white hats.

John Wayne's swagger was good.  The Lone Ranger may have worn a black mask that hid his identity.  But he was still good.  The songs of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Ernest Tubb, may have sounded corny to a boy who listened to the Monkees, the Beach Boys and the Beatles.  But their country twang was good.  Even  Marshall Dillon flirting with Miss Kitty was good.  Yuk!

  

James Burton Peters

 
To this group of "good guys," I'd like to add the name of James Burton Peters.  He was the 4th generation of my surname to reside in Raleigh County.  But he also lived in Greenbrier and Boone Counties of WV.  It is in the latter that I remember my grandfather.  We would often visit him and Grandma Sadie Alice Stover Peters on Toneys Branch in Bloomingrose, Boone County.

I would bring Grandpa a can of Prince Albert and he'd make me some of his banana pudding, you know the kind with the vanilla wafers and bananas in it.  Or he might make me some of his rich, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, never-can-get-enough, peanut butter fudge. And don't forget the apple sauce cake.  Whatever he fixed, I made out like Clyde Barrow or John Dillinger in the deal.

Grandpa Burton was a coal miner, not a very unique characteristic in depression era Raleigh County.  His father and father-in-law were miners as were his brothers and brothers-in-law.  But yet, there was something different and very special about this man.

I never heard Grandpa utter a bad word about anyone.  How many of us can say that?  If he had a problem with someone, I guess he went down to his local Church of Christ and prayed--for himself and the other person.  You see we were all brothers and sisters and members of the same flock!  We have to get along.

After my Grandma Sadie died in February of 1963, Grandpa Burton came to live with us for a while.  I remember waiting at Love Field in Dallas, Texas for his plane to arrive.  He departed the plane wearing a hat that I had seen worn by the local Texas Rangers and talking to a man that none of us knew.  My father wondered aloud, "Where did Dad get that hat?"

We were introduced to a man who had sat next to Grandpa on the plane.  The man said hello, asked how we were doing, made some small talk and then excused himself. He was late for a business meeting.  We understood.

The gentleman that had occupied the seat next to Grandpa Burton was a high ranking executive of the Levi Strauss Company.  He was so taken by my Grandpa that he gave him a brand new Stetson.  Grandpa wore that hat everywhere.  It was the same hat that covered his heart in a shopping mall in November of that year when he bowed his head and prayed for a fallen leader.

Grandpa Burton knew no strangers, was quick to make friends and was not overwhelmed by status.  One leg at a time, my boy!  Retired coal miners and high-ranking executives put their pants on the same way.
 

 

Three Generations

James Burton Peters, Shelby   Peters, and Michael Peters

There's a photo that sits on a file cabinet in my office.  Three generations are pictured in the 5 x 7 black and white.  There is a wide-eyed boy in a crew cut, a father in his military outfit and a grandfather dressed casually and wearing a light colored Stetson.  They are all standing in a driveway outside an Abilene, Texas home located on Bowie Drive.  It is a road named for Jim Bowie, the man of "big knife" fame and one of the defenders of "The Alamo."  History tells us that Bowie fought there alongside other heroes like Colonel Travis and Davy Crockett.

I'd say that's an appropriate setting for a "good guy." But while some may chose to "Remember the Alamo," I instead remember a religious, friendly man and moral role model who was partial to Prince Albert Tobacco and who fed his grandson banana pudding, peanut butter fudge and apple sauce cake.

I remember a man in a white hat.

Sincerely,

Mike Peters
npeters102@aol.com

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