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, 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 any of their tales were true, but since I heard them so often I assumed they were. Regardless of the number of times I heard them they were always funny to me because of the gestures they made while mimicking the voices of their subjects. I’m confident they loved telling them because I was a good listener and laughed along with them. One of Ike’s tales I especially loved occurred years before and involved him owning and driving a limousine.
In the middle 1930’s Ike was a young man in his late twenties in age and was quite an entrepreneur. Despite the fact the Great Depression had devastated the nation’s economy El Dorado was still enjoying 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 good 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 by mid-morning Ike had not been hired and was in his usual parking spot next to B.W. Reeves Department Store which was on the northwest corner of the square. It was located two blocks from the First Baptist Church which was a good location for attracting passersby who 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 well-known to him, he stopped to ask how he was doing and how his business was faring. During the conversation Ike asked Dr. Buchanan if he had ever ridden in a limo, to which he responded he had never been given the opportunity. Ike said, “Then hop in and I’ll drive you up to Smackover and back.”
Smackover is a small town twelve 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 and marked by many curves. It was quite different from the four lane highway we have today. Ike told me he made the trip to Smackover and back to the square in approximately twenty-five minutes. Under normal conditions the trip usually took thirty to thirty-five 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 twenty-five minutes. Just so you will know 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 said 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 of the church to pray publicly, but these men were deacons who were accustomed to it. Ike had never prayed in front of such a large group. Because of his anxiety Ike didn’t attend church for several months. He continued attending the Men’s Bible Class to which he belonged, but went home promptly after Sunday school. He didn’t want to face the embarrassment which might follow if he stuttered and stammered while praying.
His mother Cousin Annie couldn’t understand why Ike was missing so many church services for such a long time. He said he was not about to tell her because she was likely to say something to Dr. Buchanan which would make him even more aware of the promise he had made. Finally after another month or two Ike decided to risk attending church thinking surely Dr. Buchanan had forgotten about the ride and his promise. He waited to be seated until after the offering was taken, because it was always prior to the offering Dr. Buchanan would call on a deacon to pray. Ike said all during the sermon he never heard a word the pastor said, because he was worrying Dr. Buchanan would spot him and remember his promise. At one point he was certain their eyes met. Ike said, “I was really beginning to sweat, because I knew what was about to happen.” About five minutes before the sermon ended Ike stood up and slipped out the back door of the church. No one but Ike and Dr. Buchanan ever knew why Ike left church early that morning. Ike didn’t say whether he and Dr. Buchanan ever had another conversation about the incident, but I am certain the pastor never requested another limousine ride with Ike!