The late John Pannill Camp, the only child of Judge John L. Camp and Martha Pannill Camp and my first cousin, told me this story a few years ago. John, born in 1925, was a peerless trial lawyer and story teller. He said he wished that as a young man he had talked more with our grandfather, Papa – Judge William Pannill.
Papa told him that a man had come by the house one day in Stephenville, Texas, selling watermelons. The Pannills lived in Stephenville from the 1890s to the 1920s. Papa bought six watermelons and invited the man in to supper.
Papa sat the man at the head of the table. He got out the finest cloth napkins and silver for him and gave him the best cuts of meat.
After dinner, when the man had left, our grandmother, Mattie Cherry Pannill, asked Papa why he had treated a watermelon salesman so well.
The week before, Papa said, he had prosecuted a man for murder. At that time, Papa was the district attorney. The jury sentenced the man to life imprisonment.
After the trial, Papa realized he had left his pistol in his saddlebag. He walked back to the livery stable to retrieve it, but when he got there a crowd of the defendant’s friends surrounded him.
Papa didn’t know whether the crowd was going to kill him or just beat him up real bad.
Just at that point a constable stepped around the corner of the livery stable with a shotgun. He pointed the shotgun at the crowd and told them to disperse. They did.
Papa said he would buy watermelons from that man any time.