Dixie Wilson was one of river’s unique characters
Published 8:41 pm Thursday, March 12, 2009
I don’t mean did you hear about him or did you go to New Dixie Camp, I mean did you know my friend Dixie Wilson? Very statuesque and charming, a voice that you would never forget, a very successful businessman in the days when it wasn’t easy for a black man.
I remember when I was a young boy; my dad’s friend would sometimes invite us to his place on the river. Of course, it was in a different location and was the old Dixie Camp, I suppose. The biggest treat was that Dixie would cook or have it done for the folks that had cottages there. Hey, I’m talking white jackets and all—he had class.
When I went to work on the lake, one of the first people I went to see was Dixie. Seeing all the old ragged boats scattered about, I reminded him if he was going to rent them, they would all have to be registered, numbered and declared sea-worthy or safe. He gave me that ol’ humble look that he had and said, “Well, you know Po’ O’ Dixie can’t read and write…”
I told him I had a couple of off days coming up, and I would come down and help him. When I got there, Po O Dixie had the ‘gout’ with his foot up, resting. I intended to ‘help’ him, but I ended up dragging those old boats out of the water, cleaning them, buying the paint, painting the numbers—everything.
Then came the time that I was dreading: how was I going to handle telling him how much he needed to mail in for registration—I mean, can’t read or write? I stood there with my hat in hand, will he have cash? Finally, I said, “Now Dixie, we are going to have to have…a couple hundred dollars.”
I believe he said fine. I followed him into his little ‘office,’ he rolled back the top of the old desk, opened several drawers and pulled out several of the old ledger-type checkbooks. Some banks I didn’t even know. He settled on one of a stack!
Then I asked, “Do you want me to make it out for you,” handed it back to him, and he whipped the prettiest signature on there you had ever seen. I expected an ‘X’. I said, “Dixie, I thought you said you couldn’t read or write.” He grinned and said, “But I figures real good!”
As I started to leave, he handed the check to me, asked if I would carry it to Montgomery and held out his hands as if to say, “No stamps!”
Did you know Dixie? You should have.