This must have been a story going around Muscogee during WWI. It sounds like one of the stories my dad used to tell, though I had never heard this one before. The Mr. Wilder in this story appears to have been Hinson O. Wilder who was listed as “Mail Carrier” in the Cottage Hill census of 1920, household 108.
Herman Arthur Merritt
Mr. Wilder was the rural mail carrier for the post office at Cantonment in Northwest Florida. His area went down through Gonzalez and Fig City, now called Ensley, and then back north to Cottage Hill.
He was proud of his shining black spring buggy with the red trim and his fancy harnessed big Tennessee-bred dappled gelding and he kept the buggy spick-and-span and the horse groomed and well shod all the time.
During World War One the mail load increased so much Mr. Wilder was pressed for time to take care of all the stable work so he hired a young Negro boy named Isaiah Coleman as stable hand. Mr. Wilder was not exactly pleased with Isaiah. Isaiah was a little retarded. But he was a hard worker. And he did keep the barn and stables clean and harnessed and hitched the horse to the buggy in the mornings and unhitched and fed him at the end of the day. And Isaiah only cost Mr. Wilder three dollars a week and three meals a day so he would do until someone better came along.
One hot afternoon Mr. Wilder came home a little early and handed Isaiah a can of axel grease and said, "After you feed the horse, take this and grease the buggy real good. Don't miss any spots." And Mr. Wilder went on up to the house.
When Isaiah came up later for his supper Mr. Wilder said, "Isaiah."
"Did you get the buggy greased?”
"Real good like I told you?"
"Oh, yes, Sir. Real good like you say. All over 'cept where the wheels go over the axel. I'da greased there too 'cept I couldn’t get the nut off. But it don't make no nevermind. We 'bout outta grease anyhow."