The Kind of Man

That Makes Big Men Feel Small!


My Grandfather, J.W. is a huge man. The Kind of Man That Makes Big Men Feel Small. He married in to the Shields family. He recalls Shay, the smallest of the brothers and very old at that time, as something other than a man. Head and shoulders was not an apt metaphor. He didn't have one. My grandfather was a paltry 6'2 and 260.  

I recall another story dug up by Dr. June Welch (though I had heard it in other forms at family reunions), a great old Texas historian who taught at the University of Dallas pro bono (he made his fortune in oil). Dr. Welch required each of his students to do a family history as a term paper. When he read mine and realized I was descended from the Texas Giants, he relayed a story from his childhood that he never grew tired of, but had yet to tell it to anyone who did little more than nod and smile. Some years after Gus, Frank, and Jack left the circus, Shay was still doing his act. As part of the act, the ringmaster (Barnum?) would bring out Shay along with a large wooden bench press, though in place of weights there was a simple flat platform on each side. The ringmaster would then select 4 "stout men" to stand on the platform, and Shay would then bench press them. Assuming
the ringmaster had done his job, he would have selected 4 males who didn't weigh much more than 150, but could pass for more. Maybe they were ringers, I don't know. But even if they weighed only 100 pounds each, this would put the bench pressing in excess of 450 to 500 pounds. That is a HUGE amount of weight for anyone, much less an untrained, unjuiced man who was the slightest of the 4 brothers.


This story illustrates the enormity of the brothers. An enormity that I have consistently heard described with a caveat, Yeah, they were tall, but that isn't the most striking thing. They are just flat big. Everything about them. There aunt a man that ever lived that wouldn't feel small just being around them.


 If you sort of stop and think about that, these men were a foot taller than Shaq. Only a few men in history have been taller, and yet those that have met them insist their height isn't what strikes you, it's the enormity of them. Though to be fair, the four of them together are probably a lot more awesome than just one.  

One more thing, as I recall,  Jack weighed the most at 550, Gus and Frank weighed in at 500 and Shay at somewhere around 450.

E. Hondo Burney



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