As I drove around White County over the Thanksgiving holiday, it seemed to me the road was populated with ghosts resurrected from my memory. Ghosts is not really the correct word - fond memories would be closer to the feeling, but I trust you know what I mean. I couldn’t count the number of times Dad and I would pass Donald Fancher pulled to the side of the road, just talking to whomever passed by. Walter Smith’s old place, there across from Lansden house, and old Ruben, the “swimming / baptizing hole,” in Taylor’s Creek, just off the bridge.
I cannot forget my Uncle Cordell, a man who just exuded the common sense that carried him through his life. A man who knew the worth of a dollar, I saw him more than once push in the clutch going down a hill, saving a few pennies in gas! He told me the story once of his last job in “public works,” a phrase used to indicate a man who worked at a regular job instead of living off what the land provided. He said they were taking wheelbarrow loads of concrete and dumping them off a narrow walkway that extended over the pad they were pouring. Uncle Cordell said he had such a panic come over him that he dropped the concrete filled wheelbarrow off the walkway and got gown on his hands and knees, clinging to the walkway for dear life. He shook his head and said he promised God if he ever got safely off that walkway he would never do “public works” again! He said they finally coaxed him down off that walkway, and he kept his word, never working off his farm again!
Will Stockton and his big white horse (mule?) that he kept there across the road from the house. Wylie Gene Austin and wife, our cousins “across the way,” gone on so long now. Dillon Smith and his wife Addeane and her father “Pa” Howell and his deep bass booming through the church! Many of the folks whose houses I drove by I knew only the husband because as a kid that would be whom my Dad (Preacher J. T. Holman) would refer to and work with on various projects over the years. My Mom (Floria Judd Holman) gone now and her home shelters others, I remember her encouragement when I was learning to read. She told me, “When you learn to read, you can travel all over the world and see sights you never thought to see.” And so many more life-shaping instructions.
Speaking of instructions, who can forget Ms. Evie Holland? I moved here for my last year of elementary school, which, at that time, was sixth grade. Ms. Evie had one set of desks facing one way and another the other way. I couldn’t figure out why until someone explained to me that Ms. Evie taught BOTH 5th and 6th grade! Coming as I did from the suburbs of the big city of Detroit, I thought I had been transported back in time to “Little House On The Prairie!”
I soon learned to respect Ms. Evie, seeing her blue eyes twinkle with laughter or stare a hole through anyone she caught doing something she didn’t like! So many teachers, so little time! Who can forget Robert Sparkman, as handsome as any Hollywood star, serving as the school principal. And so recently we lost Flavious McBride, a man of a different stripe; indeed, he taught me so much as my debate couch and general guide my last two years in high school. Mrs. McConnell and so many more from middle school, molding young hearts and minds with care!
My point is that as I look through the obituaries in The Expositor from time to time, I am reminded of all the wonderful people that populated the world I grew up in and, in many ways, shaped my thinking and outlook. What might my life have been like had I stayed in the big city of Detroit? Surely I would have been an entirely different person, and who knows how that might have gone? I am reminded that the state in which we live now is a temporary one, and our permanent state of affairs awaits us at the cemetery!
It is difficult to be grateful enough to cover all the people and events that shaped me into who I am! It is hard to honor enough all those that contributed on my upbringing - large and small. And the world we all grew up in (If you are my age of 61) has gone, never to return. The only constant in our lives is the changes we see. So, as I drove around the county and thought back on all those growing up years, I felt such a sense of gratitude to all these folks mentioned and so many more!
And so, I spent (not enough) time just thinking of and being grateful for all the everyday ordinary people that made my world what it was across those important growing up years! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with all that can be provided in this wonderful land of opportunity. And I hope we all spent just a little time pondering the question, “What can we do to repay all those that set the example before us?” All I know to do is to try and write this column to the best of my ability and urge folks to get involved and make a difference for themselves and the lives of those people they care about. Life is fleeting and passes us by almost before we can figure our place in it. I hope, like myself, you have wonderful, inspiring memories of those around you when you were a child to inspire you and to guide you as you grow and age and live your life. Let’s be for others an inspirational figure in the way we deal with life’s ordinary problems. What we do will contribute to the community we live in. It has been said life is God’s gift to us and what we do with our life is our gift to God. Let’s start by being thankful!