Ten years have passed since the death of James Butler. He was a man of remarkable talents, one who basically could do anything he set his mind to doing. He was a graduate of the Rosenwald High School in Reedville, and typical of the students who graduated from the school, he had beautiful penmanship. His letters and statements were meticulously neat, with each word being formed precisely.
James and his wife, Lutresa, better known as Beanie, lived in the suburbs of Browns Store. Lutresa and her sister-in-law, Nadine, were the housekeepers at Rappahannock General Hospital. Lutresa was the ideal spouse for James inasmuch as she matched his level of neatness and cleanliness.
I first became acquainted with James over 35 years ago, when he came to cut a piece of timber in my back field. When he finished, the cut-over woodland was as neat as a pin. His occupational happiness was working outside, and the bigger the task, the more he enjoyed it.
In his spare time, whenever that was, he enjoyed cutting and baling hay, for which activity he had a strong customer base.
His bales always were tied securely, and he rented barn space to store them. Unlike many farmers, he would agree to harvest hay on a small plot of land because he knew that a lot of small tracts would add up to a large harvest.
James called me “Doc”, and whenever I would ask him if we could do a project, he would answer, “I don’t see why not, Doc.” Larry Fauntleroy helped James intermittently. On one occasion when we were in an old building, James asked Larry to pick up a “stick” that was on one of the trusses.
When Larry reached for the “stick” it darted away, as it was not a “stick”, but a snake. Larry nearly went through the roof, but James and I laughed for most of the rest of the day. James also had a small moving business where he would arrange for a local move. Again, the number of those moves would add up in the grand scheme of things.
James had two brothers, William Clinton and Kenny. Each had a different talent. Clinton was a master carpenter. One day he was driving past a house with a Chinese Chippendale rail on the front porch. He went home and removed the rail from his front porch and proceeded to build a similar one on his front porch. He had an innate sense of proportion and symmetry. He would wear a brim cap, which became his identifying characteristic.
Kenny was a mechanical whiz. He could repair any engine and get it ticking as if it had been delivered from the factory the same day. His mind was an encyclopedia of mechanical details, and he kept numerous folks’ cars, tillers, tractors and outboards going long after many technicians might have abandoned ship.
All three of the Butler brothers operated on their own without a storefront or business address. Their business was by word-of-mouth, the best advertising that one can get. They were excellent tradesmen, but undertaking projects was what motivated each of them.
Today the three Butler brothers are gone. The legacy that they left on our community is profound. They were of great service to countless people in the Northern Neck, and they had a great time in the process.
James liked to call the Elder B.E. “Little Henry.” Ten years and three days after James’ death, the Elder B.E. had a son who is named James, after several Jameses, but certainly including James Butler. In keeping with James’ tradition, he is being called “Little James.”