Uncle Bill and the Kennedy assassination
I was in the tenth grade sitting in Social Studies class when it was announced on the PA system that John F. Kennedy had been shot. It is probable that almost everyone who was alive at the time can remember exactly where he was and exactly what he was doing on the day this news was delivered. It was also an earth-shaking event that truly seemed beyond comprehension.
At that time my Uncle Bill lived in Dallas where he also owned a popular bar.
William Howard Cooper being a hard living, hard driving, hard loving man, was the kind of person who could be best described as a “real high flyer.” He admitted to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day as well as to drinking a case of beer and just short of a quart of Jack Daniels Bourbon to go along with it.
Beside this addiction to alcohol and tobacco he also had an addictive penchant for gambling that would take him on frequent round trip junkets to Las Vegas. One week he would be asking Granny Cooper to hide upwards of $50,000 in winnings for him in a suitcase under her bed, saying, “ I don’t want my wife Jean to know about this,” then go back to Vegas with it the next week returning empty handed and begging his momma for grocery, beer, whiskey and cigarette money.
He was also involved in some shady sideline business dealings as suspected by him showing up for brief visits at our house in New York toting or trying to fob off anything from newly hijacked microwave ovens to recently fenced multi-stone diamond rings. The deals for these items that apparently had just “fallen of a truck” were so good, that my mother could not resist them; and although Bill never directly stole, he never seemed to mind being in the “secondary retail broker market.”
As Aunt Jeannie used to say about it:
- Bill is not really an outright liar. He’s just plain outright devious.
On these occasional trips “up North,” my mother would ask him to stay with us for a few days, but after about twelve hours of fidgety boredom or endless to and fro pacing, he would usually depart to go back to run his bar.
- Ya’ll just don’t understand, Ruth. Ya see it all goes down like this. Ever’ night when they close up, my employees take out mah cash drawer and throw it up to the ceilin’ an’ ever’ thing that sticks on the roof, they say belongs to me, and ever’ thing that falls back down on the floor they get to keep for themselves. I got to go back or I’ll be broke in no time flat.
He had an old eighteen-foot teak Chris Craft boat with an inboard engine that he kept on the Texas Colorado River near Matagorda. Every once in a while when he got good and liquored up would aimlessly and recklessly race it up around the riverfront, much to the consternation of local sport fishermen or other folks of more genteel persuasion.
Even though he was arrested for this habit on more than one occasion, for some strange reason he always seemed to have a certain persuasion with the local police, who would then at some later date be seen riding out on the river with him themselves “hootin’ and a hollerin‘ and, of course, at similar breakneck speeds.
My father took one ride with him, one time and one time only. He said the escapade was so harrowing it nearly caused him to wet his pants.
At one time Bill even cashed in on the football craze by running a Bar-Bus out to Arlington Stadium so that the drunken Dallas Cowboy fans that had signed on with him would have a safe ride back and forth. This was a motorized four wheeled cocktail lounge, undoubtedly quite novel for its time or place in the scheme of customer service innovations. But I also wonder how legal it may have been or how many political payoffs were involved to keep it in operation.
Unfortunately however, just about any Evetts descendant who smokes will also risk the curse of early vascular disease, because of what the additive effects nicotine brings to their genetically inherited high cholesterol levels along with a generalized predisposition to being overweight.
Aunt Thelma Jean, for example, who also smoked excessively and whose favorite libation was Schlitz beer; eventually had just about every artery in her body replaced by Denton Cooley. She used to say that if he got up to ten operations she would ask him to give her the next one free “just like at the car wash.”
After he had his third heart attack wild Bill Cooper checked himself out of the hospital. He told the doctors that enough was enough. He said:
- Thanks anyway doc, but I just ain’t gonna lay around this dump anymore like some ol’ cripple.
With that comment and despite the doctor’s protestations he pulled out his IV, checked out AMA (against medical advice) went home and died shortly thereafter in the comfort of his own living room recliner chair. He was 54 years old.
My mother used to say that Bill had nine lives. I told her that no, in fact he had lived nine lives while secretly thinking to myself that in doing so he had made up for all four of his sister’s conservatively self-inflicted solitary lives of boredom.
Sometime within the week after John Kennedy was killed, then subsequently Lee Harvey Oswald, my mother called Bill in Dallas and asked him “what in tarnation is going on down there? “ He told her that he knew Jack Ruby personally because Ruby had frequently patronized his bar. It was one of those hangouts where the mob, the politicians and the police crossed paths, exchanging information… and probably “a whole lot more.”
- I don’t rightly know Ruth, but ever body down here knows that Jack was mobbed up and all the police are in on the take too. So I just don’t rightly know for certain, and I can’t really say so for sure but it seems to me like somethin’ mighty funny is going on.
A great many people still immutably believe to this very day in both their hearts and to the core of their souls that on November 20 in1963 something honestly and truly was very rotten in the Lone Star State’s notorious city of Dallas.
Now I don’t rightly know for sure Ruth, but it seems purdy likely to me that somethin’ mighty fishy is goin’ on down here. Yes indeedy. Somethin’ mighty fishy.
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