Sec­ond-most-dec­o­rated sol­dier of World War I was Aus­ti­nite

Al­fred ‘Buck’ Simp­son part of big Hill Coun­try clan of cedar chop­pers.

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - INSIGHT - By Michael Barnes

Reader Dar­lene Fre­itag won­dered if we could write about her grand­fa­ther, Pvt. Al­fred Robert “Buck” Simp­son, the sec­ond-most-dec­o­rated Amer­i­can World War I vet­eran.

The tim­ing is apt given the up­com­ing 100th an­niver­sary of the war’s end in Novem­ber 1918.

“He was raised in the Bee Cave area where he was a cedar chop­per by trade,” Fre­itag writes. “I be­lieve his story would in­ter­est not only Tex­ans in the area but oth­ers as well.”

Born in 1895, “Fight­ing Buck” ap­pears to have been nearly as ef­fec­tive a marks­man as Sgt. Alvin York, the most-dec­o­rated vet­eran of the Great War.

On the other hand, Simp­son could claim the quicker tem­per, as sto­ries about his time in the Austin area con­firm. By way of con­trast, Hol­ly­wood star Gary Cooper won a best ac­tor Os­car for the 1941 movie about the more sto­ical York, who was from Ten­nessee.

In his ex­cel­lent book, “The Cedar Chop­pers: Life on the Edge of Noth­ing,” Ken Roberts de­scribes Simp­son as part of a

large Hill Coun­try clan, un­usu­ally pro­duc­tive har­vest­ing cedar in the brakes.

On Oct. 11, 1918, dur­ing the Battle of the Meuse-Ar­gonne near Somme-Py, France, Simp­son cap­tured a ma­chine gun un­aided and turned it on the Ger­mans.

Ac­cord­ing to Roberts, his cap­tain wrote to the fam­ily: “I told him to run, but he told me: ‘Hell, I come from Texas, and I don’t run from no­body.’” (Nat­u­rally, the ex­act phras­ing dif­fers in var­i­ous ac­counts.)

Austin tried to re­ward Simp­son by teach­ing him how to read and hir­ing him as a guard at the Capi­tol.

He quit school be­cause: “I got tired of a bunch of lit­tle bitty kids smarter than me.” He couldn’t tell time or punch a clock, so he was fired from his job at the Capi­tol.

Ac­cord­ing to his grave­stone at the Roberts-Teague Ceme­tery at Cliffs Edge Drive and Creeks Edge Park­way in the Bar­ton Creek West sub­di­vi­sion, Simp­son died at age 73 in 1969.

Be­lieve me, there are many more Buck Simp­son sto­ries out there, in­clud­ing brushes with the law and a stint in prison, and Fre­itag has promised to show me her grand­fa­ther’s mem­o­ra­bilia.

Al­most seven years af­ter his ac­tions in World War I, Pvt. “Buck” Simp­son told the Austin States­man about his ex­ploits for the Sept. 17, 1925, edi­tion.

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