In my book Finding Home there is a character you’ll meet named Henry Lloyd Walker. He is a favorite of mine. I fashioned the character after a man I knew as a boy. Well, I didn’t know him well, but he impressed me. Here is a memory I had of the Walker brothers. It’s about Bootsie Walker his brother. But I loved the name Henry Lloyd and to me as a kid these two were the same. Bootsie Walker and his brother Henry Lloyd were the biggest and strongest men I have ever seen. They were giant black men that made their living as loggers. They were both about 6′ 5″ and probably weighted over 300 lbs. of pure muscle. Massive strong men yet gentle and kind. On the weekends Bootsie often sold BBQ from his pit dug into the earth that was directly across the dirt road in front of his house in the woods in Grant County Arkansas. My daddy loved BBQ goat so we would go into the piney woods on the little winding dirt road that led to Bootsie’s home. Rosie, mama’s helper, would tell us when Bootsie had a goat on the pit. The black people had their own small community in those woods. Most of them didn’t have phones, but they somehow knew what was going on in their community.
I was with my Daddy one time at the pit as I watched a white man, that had arrived before us in a big fancy car, try to beat Bootsie out of a few bucks because he thought he could. He didn’t want to pay for his soda waters because he bought so much meat. Bootsie hung his head and took the loss, until my daddy stepped in and told the white man he had no business trying to beat Bootsie out of a couple of dollars. Daddy was 5’5″ and had a wooden leg, but right is right and he shamed the man into paying the full price. As Daddy preached him a pretty good sermon about kindness and fairness to his fellow man.
When the man left Bootsie wanted to give Daddy our meat free. But we paid the full price. I was a small boy then standing in the shadow of these two giant men. Bootsie and Daddy. We enjoyed our BBQ that day. The experience I had seeing this confrontation seemed to make the BBQ better for me. Daddy never said a word about what happened that day. There was no need to say anything else.