Rev. Henry Charleston


February 6, 1910 - August 4, 1984

Henry Tyler Charleston’s relationship with nature stood apart even among a populace with strong nature-based survival skills. He was born to George Charleston and Laura Avery in Refugio County, Texas. HIs folks mostly farmed even if the Avery side of his family produced a lot of cowhands. The family’s main cash income was from hunting and skinning raccoons and the children were taught early that if you want to eat you need to work. Not surprisingly Henry started hunting as a small boy. As a child he spent a lot of time by himself, making things, so the hunting, the exploration, was a natural fit. Henry developed a special relationship with animals and could talk knowingly of animals talking with one another. He was very adept at reading animal signs. He knew the river bottom up and down, knew where the good pecan trees were, where you could get chewing gum from the Sweet Gum trees, “ we lived back in there...it was important to me because I knew every spot where you could kill something - and where you couldn't kill nothing “ Henry has great stories of hunting rabbits and squirrels. "You got to have long patience with animals - you got to be very gentle with them”. He talks about a kind of wren that is a pimp, warns “there’s a hunter in the woods”. One could learn much about survival from Henry. He points out the wild plants that have been brought into people’s gardens like Swiss Chard and Japanese Kohlrobi and which plants are used to treat typhoid or malaria. Maybe it stems from getting lost is a big watermelon patch when he was two years old but Henry knows what to do, “ the minute you find out you're lost - sit down and let things come to you - hear a sound and listen to where it's coming from and go to that sound - you never know what a sound is till you get up on it.” Henry spent all his early years in and around the ranches in the Coastal Bend before relocating to Houston for much of his adult life, working for the railroad. He was in the Navel Reserve during WW II. He came back to Refugio Country to live out his days.

Introduction to Henry Charleston

Louise S. O'Connor
00:00:58
Voice of Henry Charleston
00:02:11
Nancy O'Connor: do you think many people can talk to animals. I know Milam can

Henry: no ma'am, no ma'am. Not too many can talk to them.

Nancy O'Connor: why not?

Henry: Well, they haven't got the patience. You got to have a long patience with animals. You got to be very gentle with 'em. I tell ya I've noticed one thing, cows and horses talk too. They language. You can have a cow and don't treat her right she'll tell the other cows. But if you treat her good, give her plenty of feed, she'll also tell 'em that. She'll come the first night and get her meal and the next night you wonder where all those cows come from. There's a bird that goes in the woods too, makes a funny noise like a whistle, that's the pimp to the other animals. As long as he find you, you ain't gonna kill nothing. You got to either kill him or get him out of your path. All other animals they got a funny little call, you won't see a squirrel, rabbit, nothing. They used to have coons almost as big as I am. Papa brought home many a coon bigger than I was, and folks used to eat them. Geese, they used to have all the game here all the year round. And nobody never would put a law out because a fella never was gonna kill over a mess. Rabbit was the best meal they had.