Buster Brown's Grave
On our way towards two treats of Missouri's Mississippi, Throwed Rolls at Lambert's Cafe in Sikeston and To Be Throwed Fireworks at Boomland in Charleston, we detour south into the little hernia of land prolapsed out of the state's lower right corner. In this flat fertile expanse we come to Hornersville, population 629, seeking the grave of Buster Brown, the midget.
A dusty database mention from twelve years back notes that a 70-year- old woman was then trying to erect a plaque at the grave of William "Major" Ray, who she described from her childhood meetings as "a small man with a squeaky voice." So far, just an ordinary midget.
But Major Ray was more than that.
Only 44 inches tall (and with 37-inch wife, Jennie, billed as "The World's Smallest Couple"), Ray spent many years in the late 1800's traveling with the Sells Brothers Circus before moving to Hornersville and opening a general store which sold, among other items, Buster Brown shoes. For some reason, the then 40-year-old Ray was able to convince Buster Brown's top brass that he would a better person to portray the company's child icon than a real child. His bulldog became Tige, Buster Brown's dog who lived in a shoe with him. Ray became a celebrity at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904 (the same fair that introduced hot dogs, which by odd coincidence, also became linked to a midget hawker), then finally retired back to the Hornersville area, and died in 1936.
We do not know whether or not the 70-year-old woman succeeded in her quest, and we pull up to the town's current general store to find out.
"We heard that Buster Brown is buried in Hornersville."
"Buster Brown, the famous midget."
"I don't know. Ask him."
"No. Buster Brown."
There is a quiet pause. The cashier and her three customers look at each other. After a few more moments, the cashier asks the others, "Well, what's the name of the midget we do have buried here?
"Major Ray?" asks a customer.
"Yes, yes, Major Ray," say we.
Everyone now pipes in.
"Oh, yeah! Major Ray!
"Sure, I can help you."
"Me, too, its just a mile southwest of town."
Ray is buried next to his wife, Jennie. Her grave is topped with what appears to be a life-sized statue of her with angel wings, holding a bible.
Ray's gravestone is more modern looking, probably the result of the effort a decade past, and etched into the granite is Ray, a forty year old man dressed in Buster Brown kid clothes, with Tige sitting next to him. Tige is wearing glasses.