Ike Wilson was one of Pop’s best friends, and the two of them could spin some of the funniest tales I ever heard. When he came to our home, which was usually in the evening, and the two of them would begin telling stories of growing up in South Arkansas, I would sit and quietly listen for hours at a time. I never knew whether the majority of their tales were true, but had heard them so often, I just assumed they were. Regardless of the times I heard them, they were always funny because of the gestures they made along with accompanying sounds of the voices of their subjects. I believe they loved telling them in my presence because I would ask questions regarding the details and laughed along with them. One of Ike’s tales I especially loved occurred during the decade of the 1930’s and involved Ike driving a limousine.
Ike was a young man at the time, probably in his late 20’s and was quite the entrepreneur. Despite the fact the Great Depression had devastated the nation’s economy, El Dorado was still experiencing some of the prosperity brought about by the oil boom of the 1920’s. The phenomenal rise of the automotive industry increased the demand for oil and gasoline products, and the refineries in El Dorado were producing them as rapidly as possible. Huge fortunes were being made in South Arkansas by fortunate landowners and wildcat speculators and jobs were available. At one period in time Ike owned and drove a limousine which was appealing to some of the executives and speculators who were constantly travelling in and out of the area. He would lease the limo by the ride or for a specified period of time and he worked as the chauffeur.
On this particular day in mid-morning, Ike had not been hired and had his limo parked next to B.W. Reeves & Company Department Store which was on the northwest corner of the square. It was located 2 blocks from the First Baptist Church and was in a good location for attracting passersby that might require transportation. The pastor of First Baptist, Dr. John Buchanan was walking towards the square and saw the limo with Ike sitting alone. Since Ike was a member of the church and was well-known to him, he stopped to ask how he was doing and how his business was progressing. In the course of the conversation, Ike asked Dr. Buchanan if he had ever ridden in a limo, to which he responded that he had never been offered the opportunity. Ike said, “Then hop in and I’ll drive you up to Smackover.”
Smackover is a small town 12 miles to the northwest of El Dorado and was founded as a result of the oil boom. The area surrounding Smackover was known among oilmen as the North Field and was rich in the oil and gas produced from the Smackover Formation. The road to Smackover although well-traveled was narrow, marked by many curves and quite different from the 4 lane highway today. Ike told me that he made the trip to Smackover and back to the square in approximately 25 minutes. Upon their return Ike asked, “How did you like the limo ride, Dr. Buchanan?” He replied, “Ike, I have never been more scared nor prayed more in my life than I have in these last 25 minutes in your limousine. Just to show you how I felt and how scared I was, I am going to call on you to pray the next time you come to church!”
Ike told me he knew Dr. Buchanan was serious because of how pale and frightened he looked when he made the statement. Dr. Buchanan frequently called on men to pray publicly, but these men were deacons who were accustomed to it, and Ike had never prayed in front of such a large group that attended First Baptist. As a result, Ike didn’t attend church for several months. He did attend the Men’s Bible Class to which he belonged in order to fulfill his church obligation, but went home promptly after Sunday school. He didn’t want to face the embarrassment that might follow if he would stutter and stammer while trying to pray.
His mother, Cousin Annie didn’t understand why Ike was missing church services for such a long time and kept asking him why. He said he was not about to tell her because she was likely to say something to Dr. Buchanan which would make him more aware of his promise. Finally after another month or two, Ike said he decided to risk attending church, thinking surely Dr. Buchanan had forgotten about the scary ride. He waited to be seated until after the offering was taken because it was always prior to the offering that Dr. Buchanan called on a deacon to pray. Ike said all during the sermon he never understood a word the pastor said, because he was worrying that Dr. Buchanan might spot him and remember his promise. At one point he was certain that their eyes met. Ike said, “I was really beginning to sweat because I knew what was about to happen.” About 5 minutes before the sermon was to be concluded, Ike said he stood up and slipped out the back of the church. No one but Ike and Dr. Buchanan ever knew why Ike left church early that morning. Ike never told me whether he and Dr. Buchanan ever had another conversation about the incident, but I am certain of this; the pastor never requested another limousine ride with Ike!