Uncle Nick was the oldest of my dad’s siblings. He was a successful newspaper man, and business man. He wrote the book, “The Free State of Menard.’ He was a big man when he was young. He was liked by some and hated by some. He would fight at the drop of a hat. He feared no one. He wrestled semi- pro for years but he never wrestled professionally. When Uncle Nick came to Menard, Menard had two newspapers, the Menard News and the Menard Messenger. He eventually bought both and became the Menard News and Messenger. He was very active in the community. He organized an adult baseball team that was very successful. In that day and time all of the area towns had adult baseball teams. My dad even worked as a referee at some of these games. Uncle Nick loved Menard and he loved to tell stories about Menard. One story he told me was about the time Menard had, for the lack of a better term, a county fair. The story starts one day when a stranger enters the news office. He told Uncle Nick that he wanted to help organize a big event in Menard that would bring in a lot of money to the community. He said he had helped other towns to have similar events that were very successful as fund raiser. He said he only wanted a small percentage of the proceeds that were accrued. Uncle agreed to help him to promote this event. Many people volunteered money and time to make this event a reality. Now it was my understanding that this event included horse races, a beauty pageant, and some form of county fair. Menard did not have a horse racing track. So they built one west of town right past the Los Moras Creek. I am not sure who owns the property now. When I was a kid, the property belonged to Dr. Westphall. You can see where the race track was and the barns where the horses were kept to this day. The event was a huge success and made a lot of money. The stranger disappeared during the night, taking with him all of the money. He was never seen again. As far as I know, the police were never able to apprehend him and bring him to justice. Uncle Nick said everybody thought he was in on the theft, but he swore to me, that he had nothing to do with the theft. He said he lost money like everyone else.
I want to tell one more story about Uncle Nick that the late Jimmie Crowell told me years ago. Bill Lewis operated the Menard Lumber Yard. It was located then where the Menard National Bank is located now. He was a gruff and unlikable character as was Uncle Nick. He didn’t like Nick and Nick didn’t like him. So, Bill decided he was tired of Nick bullying people. He bought himself a pair of brass knucks. He told ever one that he was going to whip Nick Pierce. So, Jimmie Crowell and several other men followed Bill to the news office, to witness Bill Lewis whip Nick Pierce. Jimmie said Bill confronted Nick as Nick came out of the news office. Bill had the brass knucks in his right pocket. He informed Uncle Nick that he was tired of Nick picking on people and he was going to whip Nick and teach him a lesson. Jimmie said Bill started to bring the brass knucks out of his pocket, but he was unable to remove his hand from his pocket as long as he was grasping the knucks. Uncle Nick realized what Bill was trying to do, so he hit him and knocked him down. Bill was still trying to get the knucks out of his pocket when he got back on his feet. Uncle Nick knocked him down again. After being knocked down several times, Bill Lewis decided it was time to retreat. He run off never having gotten the brass knucks out of his pocket.
Uncle Nick was unable to drive the last ten years of his life. He still insisted on coming to Menard at least a couple of times a year. So, he would catch the bus to Mason the day after Christmas. I would then drive to Mason and pick him up, and he would stay in Menard for about a week. He spent the week going from business to business selling calendars and “The Free State of Menard” book. It didn’t matter where he was or what he was doing he was always trying to make money.
During these ten years that he had to depend on me for transportation, we got to know each other real well. Uncle Nick loved to talk about the good old days, and I enjoyed listening. I am glad I had this time to get to know him better. He told me a lot of neat stories about the Pierce family and about Menard that I would have never known if it hadn’t for Uncle Nick. He had a huge ego and he couldn’t accept the fact that he was old and helpless. He often told me, “John it is awful when you get old and helpless.” I’m beginning to see what he meant.
Before I close I have got to tell one more story on Uncle Nick. As I have said before, in his younger days, Nick was not very likeable. My Dad loved Uncle Nick as his brother, but he did realize that Nick could be a difficult person to like sometimes. So, daddy and I were coming home from work one day, and we noticed a man selling watermelons out of the back of his truck. We decided to stop and buy a watermelon. Daddy was always a friendly person, so he struck a conversation with man selling the watermelons. The man asked daddy how long he had been around Menard. Daddy told him he had been around Menard almost his entire life. The man said years ago he used to live in Menard. He said he worked for the local newspaper office. He said the owner of the newspaper was a salty old S.O.B by the name of Nick Pierce. Daddy informed him that he knew Nick Pierce and his family. He asked what ever happened to them. Daddy told him that Nick, his wife, and son Edgar, were buried in the local grave yard. He said he would like to see where they are buried. So, we told him to follow us to the graveyard and we would show him where they were buried. After we got up to the graveyard, he told us that he liked the whole family but he didn’t care much for Nick. He again asked daddy if knew Nick Pierce very well. Daddy said, “Well, I guess I did know him pretty well since he was my brother.” I will never forget the look on the man’s face. He immediately began to apologize profusely. Daddy told him he need not apologize. Daddy said that just proved you knew him pretty well. The guy felt so bad that he gave us five free watermelons.
Uncle Nick died in nineteen ninety. He was ninety four years old. I am glad I got to know him before he died. He was my favorite uncle on my dad’s side of the family. I still miss him.