Well hell, I reckon I ought to be baptized too

July 22, 2009    By: Matt W. @ 7:31 pm   Category: Life

While I don’t consider myself much of a storyteller or very good at historical work, I really do try to take Pioneer day as an opportunity to look back at people in my pioneer heritage worth honoring. So consider this bit of family history part of the upcoming pioneer day celebration.

When Bill’s brother, Jim Ed, went away to college at Stephen F. Austin, as part of his hazing, a man held him down and shaved his head. Jim Ed went home humiliated, and said he’d had enough of school and these sorts of shenanigans. Bill got the boy’s name and then took off. He got in his car [1] and drove to the school and began asking around for the young man who’d held his brother down. The man, not knowing who Bill was, came out extended his hand to Bill, and said “What do you want to talk about?” He took the man’s hand, breaking his finger, and said “I’m not here to talk boy, I’m here to whoop your ass.” Jim Ed had no more problems with hazing at school. [2] However, Jim did have some trouble with his brother.

You see, Jim eventually went into the military as a doctor, and in this experience, he became exposed to the Mormon Church. After teaching out of Jesus the Christ for over a year at the local Presbyterian Church, Jim Ed was baptized. Bill did not like this betrayal one bit. In fact, Bill came over to Jim’s house with a rifle to let his brother know he’d disgraced the family. While coming with a weapon, Bill settled for a fist fight in the front yard with Dr. Cowart, and went his own way.

For Good Old Boys in Texas, when the local authorities disappoint, you stomp your foot and head to Austin, and Bill, not being satisfied with the skirmish in his brother’s yard, and used to taking matters into his own hands, decided he would go to Salt Lake City (from Texas) to let the higher ups have it, and see if he could prove the church false and reclaim his brother. So, a man on a mission, he stormed into Church Headquarters with a cigar hanging out of his mouth, and demanded to see the authorities. After some time, it was Elder Hartman Rector’s office he was brought into, and the two began to discuss the Gospel. Several hours passed. Bill’s tone shifted from antagonistic to interested, and he began confessing his sins to Elder Rector. More hours passed. [3] Eventually, Bill said “Well hell, I reckon I ought to be baptized too.” and after handing over his cigar to Hartman, who stowed it in his desk, he was escorted over to the Tabernacle where he was baptized.

Bill went on to serve faithfully in the church as a member of a Bishopric, limiting his antagonizing remarks to letting his home teachers know they needed to “cut their damn hair” on occasion. He was active in the church the rest of his life.

Over 20 years later when my father in law took my wife to meet Hartman Rector at a conference, her father asked him, “Do you remember Bill?” To which he said, “You mean that cigar chomping, pistol toting cowboy from Texas? I had to take his cigars away!”

That’s my Pioneer Heritage. [4]

[1] Some of Bill’s greatest incidents in family lore involve cars. Once, while driving along the road, some teenagers were playing “leap frog” with Bill’s old pickup, passing Bill, then slowing down so he would have to pass them, only for their little car to zip around his truck, pointing and laughing, and slow down again. Bill became angry, pulled his pistol out of his glove box, and put 5 bullet holes in the back of their car. As they pulled over in shock, Bill made it a point to point and laugh as he drove by. Another time, Bill’s truck had died in the road in Houston, and Bill was rather frustrated working at its repair, when a car pulled up behind him and began honking at the car parked in the middle of the road. Bill walked back to the car, looked down in at the driver, reached into the car, ripped the man’s keys from the ignition and threw them as far as he could into a nearby field.

[2] Jim Ed actually ran into the man 50 years later at a school reunion, at which point the man remembered being attacked by Bill Cowart. His pinky finger had healed crooked, and he’d had that crooked finger to remind him of Bill for all that time, but hadn’t known Jim’s last name or the reason he’d been in the fight in the first place.

[3] I would give anything to see Elder Rector’s Journal entry from that day.

[4] You can read about Bill’s mother here.

19 Comments »

  1. There’s a baptismal font in the Tabernacle?

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — July 22, 2009 @ 8:30 pm

  2. BiV,

    The downtown stake used to do their stake baptisms there.

    Matt,

    Great story, thanks.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 22, 2009 @ 8:35 pm

  3. Ok, so Jim is your wife’s grandfather right?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 22, 2009 @ 9:12 pm

  4. That’s right.

    Comment by Matt W. — July 22, 2009 @ 9:14 pm

  5. Biv, as you might expect, Ardis has mentioned the Tabernacle baptismal font recently (see comments as well as post). As it turns out, my wife was baptized in the Tabernacle (just because she thought it sounded cool when her Grandma suggested it), so they were still using it up until the renovation.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 22, 2009 @ 9:22 pm

  6. Sweet story. I think it kind of demonstrates God’s foreknowledge that somehow I know he knew how much I’d like it. Hell, it makes me think I may end up as a hard determinist now.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — July 22, 2009 @ 9:24 pm

  7. Kent, it doesn’t take foreknowledge to know that you’d like this story. Just like it doesn’t take foreknowledge to know that I am going to here crazy stories about Uncle Bill shooting transistors off phone polls for the rest of my life.

    And I’m ok with that, because every one of those crazy stories ends or begins with the story above.

    The Font in the Tabernacle is filled in now, from what I hear, but I do think it is so cool that people were able to be baptized there. It’s such a neat connection with our history.

    Comment by Matt W. — July 23, 2009 @ 6:07 am

  8. I LOVE Elder Rector. What a great story!

    Comment by Rob — July 23, 2009 @ 7:14 am

  9. Umm….
    Technically, that’s “transformers off power poles” Matt. A little factoid, like a font in the Tabernacle, that probably only power company employees would notice.

    Comment by mondo cool — July 23, 2009 @ 7:16 am

  10. Mondo, if that’s the only thing I got wrong in the story, it’s a small miracle indeed.

    Comment by Matt W. — July 23, 2009 @ 9:21 am

  11. mondo cool, I’d wager a bet that it was probably glass insulators on phone poles. My father worked as a conductor on freight trains, and saw numerous broken glass insulators on the ground near the poles. A few were shattered by usage, many by projectile. He has built quite a collection of intact insulators.

    Comment by Bull Moose — July 23, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

  12. Wow, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during that meeting with Elder Hartman Rector.

    Comment by Clean Cut — July 23, 2009 @ 4:17 pm

  13. Very fun — thanks for putting this up.

    Comment by john f. — July 24, 2009 @ 5:10 am

  14. Bull Moose:
    I would tend to agree w/ you but the story told by Jim Ed is that Bill was shooting transformers. Transformers had a tendency to EXPLODE! Jim Ed is a doctor & Bill was a lawyer – what would they know?

    Comment by mondo cool — July 24, 2009 @ 6:23 am

  15. Another tidbit to the story – When Uncle Bill came to the house with his rifle, Dad told him: “Now that’s not a fair fight. You gotta gun & I don’t.” Hence, the fistfight.

    Comment by mondo cool — July 24, 2009 @ 6:27 am

  16. This is a great story. It made my day……

    Comment by WVS — July 24, 2009 @ 6:47 am

  17. Well a transformer certainly would be a more exciting target!

    Happy Pioneer Day, everyone! Great story about modern pioneers.

    Comment by Bull Moose — July 24, 2009 @ 9:21 am

  18. Such an awesome set of stories. Thanks.

    Comment by danithew — July 27, 2009 @ 5:36 pm

  19. Sounds like Bill and J. Golden Kimball might have gotten along well. I love THOSE stories as well. Thanks for sharing a great memory.

    Comment by RickM — August 6, 2009 @ 7:54 pm

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