Many legends circulated by and about Tom Crider, the recluse who lived in a house on stilts way out on the back side of Wildcat Slough. One was that when he worked in the oil fields as a youth, a pipe went down his mouth and the side of his throat, and he wouldn’t go to the doctor. To make it heal, he filled it with Sweet Garret Snuff, and constantly kept it filled. This story gained credibility every time Tom opened his mouth, a brown cavern emitting a gurgling raspy voice. Another legend was that he ate turtles raw, the snuff supposedly overpowering any salmonella germs that may have been present. I never saw him do it, though. My favorite legend was the one he told my cousin and me himself when I was seven and my cousin was eight while we were fishing the slough. He gurgled it out this way, if memory serves:
“Way back yonder in 1937 I seen a human-like footprint in the mud where the Saline branches off south of the slough. That thing was as long as the bottom part of my leg and then some and nearly as wide as your daddy’s hiney [He said that to my cousin, whose daddy, Uncle Herbert, was very well-nourished]. I seen part of another of the same kind of footprint, lapping off at the edge of the water. Well sir, I built me a blind up in a gum down in there to see if I could find out what laid that foot, taken me a quart of shine up there into my blind, my snuff and a couple of perch sandwiches. I bone them big red-ears and roast them over a fire and put them in cornbread, don’t you know. [He didn’t mention eating turtles].
“Long about daylight, a thrashing around down there by some willows woke me up, and there it was. A great old big thing, all hairy and muddied up, a-wallowing on the edge of the Saline like a over-heated hog. I watched him as he backed up to one of them stout willows and commenced to itching his back on it, making a real contented grunt when he done it. Then he stopped real sudden like and sniffed the air, looking all around. I stayed quiet and watched it a long time, the thing putting off a smell like rotten eggs, wet dog and skunk. Before long, it kind of looked up in my direction and taken off out into the river and swam on its back down it till it was way down yonder on the other side and then he crawled up into a pine thicket.
“I went to my blind several nights after that, but the thing never showed up again. I only saw it one other time, in broad daylight, when I was squirrel hunting up where them May haws is on the Strong side of the Grand Mere Lake. I was in the shade down by a stump, kind of camouflaged, you know, and I seen that thing stripping May haws off one of the larger trees and smacking loud as it ate them. It never saw me but went on pretty soon and I could hear it a long time after I lost sight of it going up in them hardwoods.”
My cousin and I remembered that story after Tom Crider’s grave-side service in 1958. We both agreed that he made a believer out of us. Tom’s was the only burial I’ve ever heard of where a Justice of the Peace presided.