Willie Lewis Shafer came to Bailey County in 1930, settled near what we now know as Needmore, and started farming with six teams of mules. He met Zeffa V. Stevenson on a blind date, and they were married in 1932. In 1937 Willie Lewis became manager of Needmore Co-Op Gin, built his own gin in 1948 west of Needmore and ran that gin until his death in 1987. They had a successful marriage and busy life in Needmore, producing two sons, Lewis Wayne, born in 1933, and Darrell Bruce, born in 1946.

And one of those sons, Lewis Wayne, came to be known as the Mayor of Needmore.

The Mayor of Needmore? An unincorporated community with 45 citizens, according to the 2000 census, needs a mayor? Well, when it’s Lewis Wayne, why not?

Paul Wilbanks is credited with giving Lewis Wayne that label, to which Lewis Wayne countered that he wasn’t the mayor, he was in charge of the water. But Lewis Wayne was born in Needmore, grew up there, married and made a family and life there, and made a whole lot of friends in the meantime.

Lewis Wayne was born in the house that his mother Zeffa later painted before it was torn down, since was it was about to fall down anyway! Later his dad Lewis built a house for Lewis Wayne and Wanda after they married. right next door to their newly rebuilt house, which is still standing. Lewis Wayne’s house was added onto three times, and they were still living in it when Lewis Wayne died in 2023.

Lewis Wayne started school in Circleback and finished at Muleshoe High School. Kaye Beene Elliott, a long-time resident of Needmore told me that Hwy 214 divided the Sudan and Muleshoe school districts; the Beenes lived on the Sudan side, the Shafers on the Muleshoe side, and back then the two schools played against each other in school sports. So Lewis Wayne and Kaye’s dad Eddie, who were good friends in Needmore, even went on fishing trips together,  played against each other! Lewis Wayne graduated from Muleshoe High School in 1952.

While he was in school and after graduation, Lewis Wayne had helped his dad in the gin, During this time he happened to have a blind date with Wanda Jean Whitmire from Sudan. They dated six months and married in 1955. She said she was just glad he showed up at the church that day since it was bird-hunting season…some choices can be difficult!

But he, of course, made the right decision! After they married, Lewis Wayne then served in the U.S. Navy on the USS Lucid, a minesweeper which took him to Japan and Hawaii as well as California where he was stationed at San Diego. First child Ellen was born while he was on tour, and he didn’t see her till she was six months old. I was told that when he got off the ship and walked up to them, Wanda had Ellen in her arms, and Ellen just fell over into her daddy’s arms like she knew it was him.  They lived in San Diego till his tour of duty was over and went back to Needmore. Robert came after they moved back to Texas, followed by Linda. Linda said they quit {having kids} when they got perfection! Hmmm. That sounds like something Lewis Wayne might have said.

Lewis Wayne is the first man in the back row on the left. He was a Petty Officer.

Wanda, Lewis Wayne, Ellen, Linda, Robert.

Linda, Ellen, and Robert, 2005

At some point, Lewis Wayne had told his dad he didn’t want to be a cotton ginner, he wanted to be a cotton farmer.

And that’s what he did when he made it back to Needmore,  adding maize, wheat, and cattle.He really enjoyed the cattle. And with cattle come horses. He taught the kids how to ride and gave Robert a filly once. If you have a horse, you need a saddle, and that was to be Robert’s Christmas gift one year. Lewis Wayne wasn’t ready for Robert to see the saddle just yet that Christmas, so when he brought it in that night, he dropped it behind the sofa to hide it, which happened to be right where Robert was hiding so he could see Santa!

Ellen and Linda liked to ride, too, but Linda wanted to adventure out of the pasture, so she asked Dad when she could do that. He said, “As soon as you can catch him and saddle him, you can ride outside.” In a few minutes she came back with the horse saddled, looked at Dad, and he said, “Take off.” Then she laughed and added, “Granddad didn’t like it that I would ride alone, and I could see him in the pick-up on the horizon, watching me. He didn’t know I could see him.”

She said they were all three pretty much given the same instructions to get to ride outside the pasture, but I suspect the grandkids weren’t held to the same guidelines. As of 2023, Lewis Wayne and Wanda had seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Grandson Joshua on a ride.

Hunting and killing rattlesnakes was a family outing in the spring. Even as the kids grew up and married, the whole family would go out into the pasture, use a device that looked like long tongs or tweezers to pull the snakes out of their holes and cut off their heads with a shovel, which they would throw back into the hole to get them out of the way since the heads could still inflict venom.  Then they would turn the bodies belly-side up to get it to rain, which was a new concept to me! Not sure if that worked or not, but it was worth a try.

I heard from many people that Lewis Wayne was well  known for his teasing. According to Kaye, “Lewis Wayne was a character; he liked to tease all us kids. I always had on cowboy boots when I was at my grandad’s {Fred-“Pinto” Beene} grocery store, and Lewis Wayne  would always tell people that I had my boots on the wrong feet! I’d kick him in the shins when he would come in; he just always had to aggravate me, pick on me. I’d just light up when he came around..”

I asked her if her boots really were on the wrong feet, and she laughed and said, ” I’m sure I did have them on the wrong feet! Momma never did correct those stories, so I’m sure they were on the wrong feet. As the years went by, Lewis Wayne would stop and visit, even at the appraisal district (when Kaye worked there) and tell stories on me.”

Ellen said, “Everything just kind of comes together with my dad, so much, he was the life of the party, was the biggest kid in the room. He liked to watch the grandkids participate in their sports and was known to get a technical foul when he would accuse the officials of making a bad call.” And that was the case as well when those grandkids’ parents played sports.

Lewis Wayne enjoyed time with family, for example, when he attended this Stevensons cousins’ reunion in 2021 in Lubbock. Remember, Lewis Wayne’s mother was a Stevenson. Left to right, standing, we have Wilma Sue Nicewarner, Stephanie Barrett, Ronald and Joyce Scott, Wanda, Annette Gaillard, Curtis Walker, Bryan Taylor, Rhonda Walls, Connie Taylor, Sheila Stevenson, Shirley Walker; seated: Lana Sue Nicewarner, Mary Janice Brantley, Debbye and Sammy Word, Lewis Wayne, and Ellen.

And then there was the wedding of granddaughter Jenna, Linda’s daughter, in 2018 at the Victorian Plantation in Lafayette, Louisiana. From the left: Mark and Ellen Mardis; Sherrie and Robert Shafer; Lewis Wayne and Wanda; Ellen’s baby-Chase Mardis; the groom, Caswell Compton; the bride, Jenna holding Madison, Ellen’s granddaughter; Jeff and Linda Rhoads; Shannon and Joshua Rhoads; Ellen’s daughter Amy Mardis; Curtis and Shirley Walker.

The other son of the family, younger brother Darrell Bruce, who went by Bruce, married and lived in Friona. His and Lewis Wayne’s family were close and did things together, but Bruce died December 20, 2002 at the age of 56.

More family pictures- here we have four generations of the Shafer family; Willie Lewis, Lewis Wayne; seated, W. A. Shafer, and Ellen.

Lewis Wayne did his share of community involvement, too. He served on the Rural Electric Association (REA) board of directors and was on the Muleshoe School Board, serving as board president in 1970, which allowed him to sign Ellen’s diploma! He was off the board by the time Robert and Linda graduated.

Ellen now lives in Burnet.  The family lost Robert in 2019. That saddle mentioned earlier was at the front of the church at Robert’s funeral. Linda and Ellen gave it to Annette Stevenson Gaillard, Robert’s cousin, and her family is using it now as they work cattle, so it is still in the family, as it should be. Linda and her husband Jeff live in Lafayette, Louisiana, and Wanda is happily living with them. enjoying bingo and western movies on TV. She has become best friends with the family dog Cinnamon, and is content. Linda said, “She worked hard all her life; I am glad I can do this for her now.”

Visiting with friends and acquaintances was always important to Lewis Wayne. That seems like a typical mayor’s job, doesn’t it? Eating at Leal’s was always a lengthy process, for example. The kids knew it would take about thirty minutes for him to stop at most tables to visit with friends before he paid the bill. He loved going to the senior center to eat and talk and play dominoes. He loved the hamburgers at the livestock auction, and visiting and teasing went on there, too. But when he had to sell his cattle, he did not love that. Linda said he really loved those cattle. A fire burned all the pasture grass and fences, and it just tore his heart out when he had no choice but to sell the herd.

After the cattle were gone and when he finally had to quit farming,  Raul Rodriquez, who had worked for him and was indispensable. continued to farm the way Lewis Wayne had. So when Lewis Wayne officially retired and leased the land to someone else, it was with one condition: if you lease the land, Raul goes with the deal. Raul was a good hand, knew the farm, and it was important to Lewis Wayne that Raul had a job and that the land was taken care of correctly.

Lewis Wayne and Wanda were long-time members of the Muleshoe Methodist Church, and they both enjoyed Angela Carter, who served as interim pastor at the church. She would go out to visit them often, and on one trip Lewis Wayne told her that when he died, he wanted her to do his service, to which, in classic Lewis Wayne teasing style, she said, “Well, you’d better hurry, because I’m leaving!” She had taken another position at a church in Lubbock, but when that time came in July of 2023, , she did come back to celebrate his life. She shared with the congregation that the apostle Paul told the Christians of Thessalonica that the best way to live their lives is to work with their hands, mnd their own business, and lead a good life. I don’t know if teasing is exactly minding his own business, but it was his way of showing attention to people; he followed Paul’s advice. He loved his family, his friends, and the land he worked.

Blessings and peace, Lewis Wayne. You will be missed.

Thanks to Linda Rhoads, Ellen Mardis, Wanda Shafer, Angela Carter, Joyce Scott, Sheila Stevenson, Paul Wilbanks, Kaye Elliott, Bill Liles, Vicki Black, and Bethany at Your Web Pro for their help with this story. All pictures were shared courtesy of Linda and Ellen.