“Umm, Umm, dem pancakes sure smell good, little mama!” E.J could slip in and out of Cajun dialect very easily. He always spoke it in private with his wife, Renee.
E.J., Renee, and E.J.’s brother Claude Boudreaux left Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana in 1953, quite literally on the run. What started as a quiet party to celebrate the return of Claude from his army service in Korea turned into a disaster.
The three were at a bar in Houma having a great time when their party was interrupted by a drunken Cajun who had designs on Renee. The scene turned violent. The Cajun pulled a knife and came after E.J. Claude drew a pistol and shot the Cajun. They left the bar in a hurry not knowing if the man who had been shot was alive or dead. Because of a prior conviction for a burglary, E. J. knew it wouldn’t go well for him or Claude. He had no desire to spend several years in Angola Prison. The three packed what they could and headed north in E.J.’s old Buick. Panicked, their loosely defined destination was Birmingham, Alabama.
The Buick broke down about a mile south of Parsons Crossing. All three were standing besides the car when a car driven by then – a young - Eddie Boswell pulled up. Eddie didn’t start using “E. Humphrey” until after his father’s death. They talked for a while and mourned the dead Buick. Eddie inquired as to where they were going. They replied that they were on the way to Birmingham to look for jobs.
“If you want jobs, I can get all three of you a job at the mill.” And that’s how the Boudreaux’s of Houma, Louisiana became residents of Parsons Crossing, Alabama. E.J. and Claude took jobs in the mill and Renee worked in the mill cafeteria. They rented and later bought a house in town. E.J. and Renee had four children. Claude never married. E. Humphrey Boswell became their patron and they never failed to remember it. Oh, and the guy they left for dead in the Houma bar – it was only a minor wound and everybody in the bar convinced the sheriff that the bastard got what he deserved. The news didn’t reach the now established Boudreaux family until several years later. By then, E.J. and Claude had left the mill and established a quaint, yet profitable business, nearby.
Boudreaux Enterprises consisted of a barbeque joint, a Western Union office, and a cabstand. It was a well thought out arrangement. Later they would add a pawnshop. The barbeque brought in lunch traffic from the mill, taxis were a great way to transport bootleg liquor, and the universal popularity of Western Union meant that everybody in Parsons Crossing would eventually wander into Boudreaux Enterprises. It was here that E.J. Boudreaux began his primary businesses of sports betting and loan sharking.
After eating breakfast, E.J. drove to what he joked was his “office,” Claude was already there. Claude and his crew were getting ready for the lunch crowd from the mill. Claude’s two black cooks were probably two of the best in the region, Lavon Stallworth and Abner Matthews. Claude had given them monogrammed chef’s hats. One said “Chef Lavon” and the other said “Chef Abner.” Around town, that’s how they became known. Both also served as “runners” who took bets from the black community for E.J.
Claude, over the years had become heavy. The weight looked good on him and he’d started shaving his head to highlight the affect. Claude was as popular as E.J. and because he was single – and had money – he never ran out of girlfriends. His latest was a little redhead named Jennifer who was twenty years his junior. Stopping by for a quick visit on her way to the hairdresser, Jennifer looked out the window and remarked to Claude,
“Y’all have phone trouble? Old Leroy Smathers has been out there with his truck for a long time. I saw him there when I drove by early this morning.”
“Hell, Jennifer,” E.J., who was standing nearby, said, “every time it rains we have phone trouble. Don’t worry, Leroy will get it fixed. He always does…”
A few hours later Chief Hackney entered a room in the police department that no one else was allowed to enter. He now had the capability to eavesdrop on E.J. Boudreaux’s three phone lines. Although he would never dare try to shut E.J.’s operation down, it was always good for a police chief to know who was sinning…
While E.J. was making money on his various enterprises and Chief Hackney was enjoying his new surveillance toy, Waymon Jones was moving along in the bookmaking business. He’d quietly spread his skills to a nearby paper mill and had started taking bets from a few patrons of two country clubs near Parsons Crossing – York and Livingston. Recently he’d had an offer to go to New Orleans on an expense paid trip. He figured it would be a good time for his wife Rose and him to kick back a little – a second honeymoon.
Waymon had never been to New Orleans. A visiting golfer from there had placed a couple of bets with Waymon. He’d lost money on both, but impressed with Waymon, the golfer suggested that Waymon visit him in New Orleans and that he would introduce him to some people who would really appreciate a man with his skills.
The trip was fabulous. Waymon and Rose partied with their new friend in the French Quarter and went on dinner cruises up the Mississippi River. Waymon even found some great gambling action in some New Orleans locations not frequented by tourists. It was at one of the “underground” gambling joints that he met the Mastronni brothers.
The Mastronni brothers were part of a crime family that had its roots in Chicago. Most of the minor rackets, gambling, prostitution, and loan sharking within 300 miles of New Orleans had ties to the Mastronni family. Their web hadn’t reached Sumter County, Alabama but that was about to change.
Bubba Mastronni explained to Waymon how he could make more money with less work.
“It’s sort of like a McDonald’s franchise, Waymon, my brother and I provide the support and you continue to supply the service. It mutually benefits both of us. We’ll even front you cash so that you can increase your average bet. You won’t have to dirty your hands on collections – we’ll take care of that too…”
And, that’s how Waymon Jones made his pact with the devil. Little did he know that the pact would cost the life of one of his best friends.
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