My Uncle Al

Memories of Richard Albert (Al) Bradsher
by William Richard Bullard

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This is a wonderful addition to Greene Counties History

Tina Easley

tina@grnco.net

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Note to the Reader: Richard Albert Bradsher was born in Greene County in October 1880, the fourth child of John Albert (Jack) Bradsher and his wife, Lucinda Ross Bradsher. For a few years in the 1930's, he lived in Marmaduke with the family of his sister, Verna Lucinda Bradsher Bullard and husband Clarence William (Jack) Bullard.The author of this article is Verna and Jack's son, William Richard Bullard.

 

I don’t know exactly what happened, but Uncle Al deserted his wife and two little girls and went traveling out west.  While he was gone, he lived in Alaska, Colorado, and Washington State. He told my sister, Jacqueline, and me stories of his travels. Sometime around 1933 he called the Bradsher family and asked for travel assistance money to get back to Arkansas. At the time, he was in Kansas and flat broke.  There was a family discussion trying to decide if it was really him.  In the end, Uncle Jess or Uncle Claude—I don’t know which—paid his train fare to come back to Marmaduke.  I remember when he arrived in Marmaduke and he was something to see: He was wearing knickers and argyle socks when he got off the train, and I tell you, knickers and argyle socks were not at all common in Marmaduke in those days.

 

When he came back to Marmaduke, he lived with my family.  I was a young boy at the time and I loved Uncle Al.  He spent time with me and taught me a lot of crafts.  Once, I worked with him to build a hot air balloon.  It was intended to go up just by itself—it wasn’t meant to take a person up. And it was a beautiful piece of work, if I do say so myself.  We built it in the backyard. Finally, the day came to send it up.  For a little town like Marmaduke, this was a big event.  Everybody came to watch and lined up on the fence around our yard.  Uncle Al built a fire to provide the hot air to send it up.  But instead of the balloon going up, the heat from the fire started heating the glue that held the balloon together.  The hot glue started melting and smoke started coming out of the seams and the balloon didn't go up. It was a disappointment. I’m sure if the glue had been right, our hot air balloon would have gone up. But instead, after a while our friends and neighbors just shook their heads and left. 

 

Another time my Uncle Al helped me build a trap to catch blackbirds. The lot behind our house was split into two sections: a north lot and a south lot.  The south lot was where we had our garden.  Our garden attracted blackbirds and we had many blackbirds in the south lot, even in the winter months. One day Uncle Al said to me, “You know, I could fix this up so you could trap those blackbirds.”  So we went to work.

 

We took a lattice about a quarter inch thick and an inch and a half wide and we constructed something like a pyramid. The pyramid sloped up to the first level and in the center of that he fixed a little trap door. The pyramid was about 48 inches square. We used a one by one stick to prop one side up about twelve inches off the ground.  Because the lattice made the pyramid open, the birds weren’t afraid of it.  We put cracked corn in the center under the pyramid and they gathered in there like crazy!  We tied a string to the stick and ran the string to my bedroom.  I would sit in my bedroom and watch until the birds gathered, then I’d pull the string and we would catch many blackbirds!

 

My mother had read me a story about “Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie.” So I asked my mother if she could bake a pie out of those birds we caught and she said, “Yes, I think so.”  So I cleaned those birds and we had a lot of good meat—it was dark meat.  My mother made something like an English pasty with that meat and we invited Brother Gatlin, the Methodist minister to come eat a noontime dinner with us.  My mother, my grandmother, Brother Gatlin, Uncle Al and I all sat around our big round oak table. I must have been about five years old then; my sister wasn’t with us because she was in school and my Father was at work. Brother Gatlin was a real fine gentleman—I knew him later in life when I worked for the Boy Scouts.  He enjoyed that pie and we all agreed that pie was delicious.  So that story my mother told me about the” Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie” became a reality in my life.

 

Uncle Al had a pocket watch with a gold chain—something nice that men were proud of in those days.  He also had a mounted elk’s tooth on that chain.  He probably told me where he got that elk’s tooth but I don’t remember.  I don’t know if he bought it or what, but I remember I was fascinated with that elk’s tooth.

 

I don’t know much about Uncle Al’s life.  He told me he had lived in Alaska and that he actually visited the Eskimos or they were nearby.  He said one of the things the Eskimos did was they would take some kind of cooking vessel—I don’t know what it was—and they rode it like a slide down a snow-covered hill.  I could see them in my imagination, sliding down the hill.

 

Another story I remember: In 1934, I was about six years old and Uncle Al bought a new 1934 Dodge car.  He had a job selling—maybe he was a salesman selling though a catalog, I don’t know.  I went with him on one of his trips up toward Rector and Piggott, Arkansas and we probably went over to Kennett, Missouri.  I would stay in the car and he would go into the store and sell.

 

The car had a radio, and that was unusual in 1934. I said to him, “Why don’t you play the radio?” and he said, “The engine is so damn loud you can’t hear it anyway.”

 

He was quite a singer; he loved to sing and I thought he did a real good job. “Harvest Moon” was one of the songs I remember him singing, “Harvest Moon" and others that I can’t recall right now. But I remember that one, “Harvest Moon.”

 

We moved to Little Rock in 1937. Uncle Al had moved to Little Rock before we did. I don’t know when he moved, but he went to Little Rock before we did. As I recall he had a job with the State. I have no idea what that was; I never visited him at work. But he was then close to his daughters Lanette, and Eva. Later he went into the Pulaski County Hospital. I went out there to visit him with my mother and Lanette and Eva were there. That was a short time before he died in 1938. 

 

Lanette married Sterling Adamson, Jr.  Sterling was a salesman. He came through Marmaduke and having stopped at my Father’s garage several times, he finally met his future wife, Lanette. He worked for Stebbins and Roberts paint company. The paint plant was in Little Rock. Sterling had gone to work with them as an errand boy at a young age and worked his way up to president of the company. Their main line of paint was Sterling paint and named after him. So Lanette married well. Sterling was a fabulous guy. I knew him: He traded at my father’s automotive garage in Little Rock. 

 

Lanette was a little ditsy. It was not uncommon for Lanette to call up and say, “I’ve locked my key in the car and its running. Will you come down here and help me?” Once when the garage was on Dennison street (down behind the Capitol building), we were standing out front and Lanette was coming in to get gas. We saw her coming so we waved at her. She waved back at us and she ran into the gas pump! It’s lucky the pump didn’t catch fire. It worked out OK, there was no real problem.

 

Eva was Al’s other daughter. Eva had a difficult time and at the last she lived in an apartment house for seniors on Cumberland Street in Little Rock.  She died there. She was very outgoing and very direct and she didn’t hold back on anything. She was kind of fun.

 

Herbert and Lavern Pool also traded at my father’s garage and so did the Grays. My father had a heart condition and one day he had an attack at home. My mother was at home at the time and they rushed him down to Gray’s Clinic. My mother went down there with him and I came down there later. He was 56 when he passed away. He was very fond of Dr. Gray.

 

After Uncle Al deserted his family, his wife, Victoria, married Mr. Spillman. Mr. Spillman was over 6 feet tall—a nice looking man, he looked like an English gentleman that you might see in a movie. He was just a very nice, gentle, caring loving type of person. He was elderly when I was in my teens.  I always enjoyed visiting with him. He worked for the State in the State Capitol. When I went to the State Capitol, I usually saw him there working in one of the offices. I’m sure he was well loved by the employees there because he was a perfect gentleman. 

 

Additional notes from Margaret Ann Gray (daughter of Margaret Woodrow Bradsher Gray):

Al was an insurance salesman and he conned his own family and other people of money. He took their money to pay for insurance policies but he never turned the money in. He kept the money for himself and lived off their money, so when they figured out what he was doing, they sent him to jail.  When he got out, he went back to see his mother in Arkansas. His mother was sitting on the porch, rocking. Al got out of the car, walked up to the porch and she just said, “Hello, Son” and jail was never brought up. It was like nothing had ever happened and nothing was ever said about his jail time. That story comes from Mamma and Lavern (Al’s nieces) and I don’t know how true it is—but it makes a good story.