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Flight from ghosts helps stomp some berry juice

By W. T. Block

Reprinted from Beaumont Enterpirse, Saturday December 5, 1998.

NEDERLAND -- In 1926 brother Broomtail and I were two little tykes, growing up amidst the pin oak thickets and sea cane marsh, which lined the sides of Block’s Bayou at Port Neches. Today’s Oak Bluff Cemetery had not advanced very much beyond a family cemetery as of that year, covering perhaps two acres. And outside its east or river side fence were about two acres of dense dewberry and blackberry brambles.

As children, Broomtail and I had grown up, listening to our sisters’ tales on Halloween nights, about the ghosts that wandered around the cemetery. And to augment their stories, a river man named Old Rob, who worked on our farm, had bottomless pits full of ghost stories of his own.

One of his tales was about the ghost of a Karankawa Indian chief with a tomahawk, who chased Old Rob a half-mile along the Neches River bank one night. Another of his stories noted that once, when Old Rob’s shovel got too close to one of Jean Lafitte’s buried treasures, a pirate skeleton chased him back to Gray’s Bayou, hacking at him all the way with his cutlass.

Because of his hatchet-faced visage and pirate-like demeanor, Old Rob resembled a buccaneer himself. His raspy voice accentuated his tales also; and I suppose our spellbound faces and upended hair reacted on him as well. And Old Rob always had an eagle feather or a scar on his head to "prove" his tales.

Having no radio or TV to watch or listen to in those days, Broomtail and I had to originate our own playtime activities, and one of them was to hide out among the blackberry vines near the cemetery on Sunday afternoons, if a funeral were in progress. One afternoon, we heard some twigs crackle in back of us, and our faces froze rigid when we beheld about twenty "ghosts," replete in white bedsheets and tall, pointed hats, walking toward us.

Well, Broomtail and I tore up an acre of berry briars as we flew home posthaste, our little legs hitting the ground about every fifteen feet or so while en route. And perhaps worse, our eyeballs were raining buckets of tears about the size of ice cubes. It took our mother about twenty minutes to quieten us down and end our bawling.

Mama explained that it was not really ghosts that we had seen, but rather a number of Ku Klux Klansmen, preparing to hold Klan rites over the grave of one of their dead members. She did not explain to us what the Ku Klux Klan was; perhaps she thought that that was far beyond our childhood comprehension, and it was.

I might add that I did not like the Ku Klux Klan in 1926, and during the seventy-year time span in between, my attitude toward them has not changed a bit.

W. T. Block of Nederland is a historian and author. His website is http://block.dynip.com/wtblockjr/. This database is very large (150 articles) and is intended as an area history source for students.

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