Sunday, September 28, 2008

Don't mess with Mr. Brooks Prather!

August 27, 2008
Reenie's Ramblings
By Clarene Evans

"Ought not to mess with us old folk!"

Today is my birthday and I am 63 years old. I tell you that because I am proud to be alive and healthy and constantly in a state of euphoria. It is so good to be a part of this universe. I have finally come to realize that being a part means that I am integrated into the whole and thus have to contribute to its well being. In other words, I have to somehow give back as much to this universe as I take away and the only way I know how to do that is through my writing.

I get calls each week about someone or some sentence in my column that has touched someone in a way and that makes all my efforts worthwhile. Just when I think I will turn the column over to a younger, savvier person, someone makes my days with a word of encouragement and keeps me going on- Just last week I got the nicest call from a lady in Booneville. I've never met her but she is a sister to a girl I went to high school with, Buddy Miller. Carolyn Miller said she had been meaning to call me for a while but could not find my phone number. She tracked me down through one of my children. She told me how much she enjoyed the column and her mother could no longer read but looked forward each week to getting the paper so she could read the Ramblings to her. Others have said the same thing so here it is, write it down, 662-397-1276. Call me with your comments or complaints. The latter will probably be ignored but the comments will be appreciated.

I was recently asked how many stories I had left in me and I answered them by saying, "I have as many stories left in me as I have days left on this planet." They walked away not having a clue what I was really talking about and I decided not to try and explain. Miss Helen Keller once said, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." Thank you. Miss Keller because that's the way I have felt my entire life. Every day is a story in itself; you just have to take the time to listen and I listen, for in the listening, I've found a wealth of stories. Each person I come in contact with has a story; a story worth telling. I always see the humor or the sadness in each situation I find myself but, I just choose to write about the humorous ones. Today's story is no different.

Early on in my life I found that being the clown had its advantages. You could hide your sorrow or disappointments behind the facade of a clown's face. Making people laugh made me feel better about myself so I made them laugh in any venue it took, often at my own expense. The First Baptist Church in Baldwyn was the first place I ever felt completely accepted for who I was. The church family there quickly became my family and I loved being there at every opportunity I could squeeze in. I was in Sunday School on Sunday mornings and Training Union on Sunday nights, G. A.'s (girls auxiliary) during the week, participated in Bible Drills, went to Bible School in the summers, attended each revival service nightly during the spring and fall revivals, went to choir practice and eventually was even allowed to join the adult choir when I turned 15. I had found a home -a home away from Mama's house.

Growing up at First Baptist was not all about just attending 'this' or participating in "that', it was a place where fellowship abounded. Baptist folks like to eat and can put on a spread like you've never seen. I suppose all churches are like that but I only went to FBC and to a kid who had witnessed her mother praying on her knees that she could feed her children the next day, it was a virtual smorgasbord in the making for me.

I remember one particular Sunday Morning just after Mrs. Shellnut had dismissed us from Sunday School that a bunch of us were gathered outside the building under the big magnolia tree and someone was talking about this old man who had just passed by on his way over to the church building. He was a regular to the back row of seats under the balcony. Those were coveted seats and somehow none of us kids ever got to sit back there. I suppose someone had decided years before that the back rows under the balcony were taboo for kids (it was the perfect place to give birth to mischief).

One of those pews was always occupied by a man named Brooks Prather, the same ol' man us kids were talking about after Sunday School that Sunday. Mr. Brooks was a grouchy old bachelor who walked with a cane and pretty much kept to himself, or at least that's the way I remember him. All of us were a little bit scared of him or at least scared of his wrath that we might incur if we got in his way. Of course his being aloof only made us want to antagonize him all the more. After a brief discussion, we decided that this was the day we would play a little trick on him and quite possible rattle his chains a little. One of us would march in and sit down in his place under the balcony and make him sit somewhere else.

Everyone turned and looked at me and of course I volunteered immediately. Big mistake! We all ran past him and scooted up the steps of the church and waited in the hallway that led to the east door at the back of the sanctuary. I peeped inside to make sure he had not sat down yet and he had not. All those steps, leading up to the front church door, had impeded his arrival somewhat. I eased inside and quickly plopped myself down on his designated pew. The others took a seat on the back row so that they wouldn't miss the fireworks that were sure to follow when Mr. Brooks came in and found me in his spot. They were not disappointed!

He walked up to the end of the pew and cleared his throat. I just sat there. He boomed, "That's my seat you're in, young lady." I didn't budge. Moments passed and he finally gave out the long breath he had been holding in and reached out with his cane and rapped me right on the shin. "I said that's my pew." He lashed out at me with his cane. Oh, those back row Baptists! Whoops of laughter broke out and every head in the entire congregation turned to see what the commotion was all about. I jumped up and hopped outside and ran straight into my Mama. She took one look at me and the bump rising up on my shin and asked what I had gotten into now. When I told her, she made me go back inside and apologize to Mr. Brooks.

He just stood up and replied, "It's alright this time, better never happen again. These young'uns gotta learn you just ought not to mess with us old folk!"


Photo of Mr. Prather courtesy of John Olan Cunningham


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Clarene, Funny stuff! I remember Mr. Brooks Prather, but I don't remember anything about him. Where did he live? Did he have any family? Was he related to Mr. Roy Prather who owned the Ford dealership?

  3. Another good one, Clarene! You have an exceptional memory. Thanks also for the photo of Brooks.

  4. Well, Clarene, you have been a victim of his wrath, too, I see.

    As a pool shooter at Palmer's poolroom, where Brooks hung out, I beat him at a couple of times, which meant he had to pay the dime for the game.

    He would get very riled up at the loss, and would whack someone or something with the pool cue stick, most often the opponent (I received a lick once) and storm out without paying... I guess Roy would take care of the dime later.

    Very interesting character!

  5. Brooks was my second cousin once removed. He was Roy's brother. His father was Walter B.; grandfather was Cicero. I could take you back to 1400 but there's not enough room in this little square.

    I guess he was one of my babysitters at the poolroom, but I can't imagine that, can you?

  6. The Baldwyn Baptist Church (and all the others) were certainly detrimental to the fine upbringing we enjoyed in our young and carefree days. More emphasis should be put on today's kids as we were led by caring and devout adults.
    Enjoyed the article... didn't know much about Mr. Prather, but knew lots of folks like him.
    Mary Ann

  7. You could really get to Brooks after he had lost a pool game or something didn't go his way. Just keep reminding him of it for days afterward and he would throw his paper at you and yell at the top of his voice "JUST DON'T TALK ABOUT IT!!!!"

  8. As a matter of face a few guys made a practice of making him mad just to see his reaction!

  9. That's right, 4:58! He was the recipient of many harmless jokes and pranks, ie. shave cream in an aerosol can sprayed on his hat while he slept on the pool room bench, etc.(looked like Carmen Miranda's hat after that)!
    The Tapps at Tom's drug store had a few good laughs at his expense, too. No harm was ever done to him, thank goodness.

  10. Marie and I were witnesses to some of the tricks on Mr. Brooks via Jimmy and Clyde Tapp. Brooks was dozing at a booth with Jimmy sprinking Plaster of Paris around his hat brim. Cyde sprayed it with a water pistol. After enough time for it to harden, Clyde shot him. All can imagine what Brooks said. Clyde finished it off by saying a commode upstairs was leaking.

    Floyd in Houston's Drug Store countered the Tapps. The biggest stunt was a well-travelled store manequin woman sitting on the pot in a tiny toilet on the back wall. Mr. Brooks was usually in a bind to potty when he first came in. We hurt ourselves as he backed up with hat off and holding up his pants, "Pardon, so help me pardon, ma'am!"

  11. Brooks always had a Wall Street Journal or Congressional Record in his hand to read, but it was addressed to someone else.
    The Congressional Record was the one that Lloyd Heflin threw in the wastebasket at the post office and Brooks evidently picked it out of the trash.

  12. I remember "Mr. Brooks" when he would come to the Palmer Pool Hall. He always called us young whipper snapers and he would say when he was our age he wore knickers, instead of long pants. He would not shoot, only eight ball. He said eight ball was a gentlemans game. He would stay until 5PM because that was when his cook would ring the evening "dinner bell."