My oldest daughter Melissa has done many things to make me proud but I have to give her mother and other family credit for many of her good genes. What Melissa and I do share is a focus and intensity that borderlines on being obsessive and maybe at times a little reckless. Whatever labels you want to put on it, my oldest child has it, and she came by it honestly. There are many stories about Melissa’s drive. One of my favorites happened at a football game in 1998. Melissa was to be the featured majorette in the halftime show. Clouds were gathering as we drove to the game and by the time we got there it was pretty clear we were going to get wet. I was just hoping that maybe the rain would hold off until she got to perform. We made it to halftime with just a few sprinkles but as the band lined up to march on the field the wind picked up and the rain began to fall. By the time the band reached mid-field it was pouring. Melissa was out front and when the band set to play suddenly Melissa held up her hand and then she broke ranks and ran to the sidelines. I was disappointed for her because she had worked so hard getting this routine ready for homecoming. I of course was assuming that her part in the halftime show was called off. To my surprise Melissa ran to one of the football team managers and got a towel to wipe her hands. The band waited on her as she ran back on the field. She setup and signaled that she was ready. Now, there is no way that she should’ve attempted this routine in a driving rainstorm but even from 50 yards away I could see the focus in her eyes. I just knew right then that she was about to nail that routine and it did not matter how hard it rained. Most people would never have been out in front of a crowd like that in the first place and most of the rest would have called it off when it started to rain. Not Melissa, she was ready and 100% focused. As she went through her routine she threw that baton as high as she could, not once, not twice but five times catching all five. Wow! Now, Momma couldn’t do that, that there was Daddy’s genes! Okay, well, her momma was a majorette too but she would never have performed in a driving rainstorm. It still makes me smile just to think about it. That’s my girl!
When I was 10 years old my father was in Vietnam and my mom signed me up for a program called Gra-Y. It was a great program similar to scouting. One of our favorite things to do at Gra-Y was to play capture the flag. We also took an overnight trip to Memphis. This was my first trip without family. We went to the Memphis Zoo and stayed up all night at the YMCA. This photo was taken at a Gra-Y event. Tannen Hollenberg went on to become a CPA in Little Rock. I became a criminal lawyer and served as a deputy prosecutor for five years and have been a deputy public defender for over a decade. Sgt. Walter “Sonny” Simpson would eventually serve nine years as chief of the Little Rock Police Department, from 1977 to 1986.
There are many things that Kristine and I have in common but more than anything else Kristine and I share a love of nostalgia. We like old stuff, old music, old books, and especially old photographs. Although she gets it from both sides of her family we both love taking pictures. A picture captures a moment in time that will never come again. When you take a picture, you create tomorrow’s nostalgia. We will always have that in common.
Another thing we both have in common is we were both high school athletes. I was a pitcher in baseball season and a quarterback come football season. I was never as good as I thought I was, few athletes are, but I was pretty good and I loved to throw the ball. Kristina also loved to throw the ball. Kristina was also a fast pitch softball pitcher.
When she was not playing softball Kristina was a cheerleader. During football season every time the Marshall Bobcats would score the cheerleaders would throw souvenir footballs up into the stands.
It was homecoming 2003 and I had told Kristina be sure and throw me a ball for a souvenir. We were a few minutes late to the game and as we arrived I saw the cheerleaders throwing balls into the stands. Now girls these days throw a lot better than the girls did when I was a boy. All of these girls were doing a pretty good job arching these balls up into the stadium. Unfortunately I wasn’t in the stadium and I was still a long ways off. I saw Kristina standing with a ball looking side to side like an NFL quarterback searching for the open man. I let out a hollered, “Kristina,” the second Kristina spotted me she step toward me and let rip a bullet that would’ve hit me square in the chest had I missed it. No arching, that was a straight shot.
Yes sir, that there was daddy’s genes. I grew three inches on the spot. Kristina has accomplished so many things of far greater importance than throwing me a bullet pass with a plastic souvenir football, but you see, for me that pass was nostalgic. Like a photograph that pass was a reflection of my own childhood. Thanks Kristina for the souvenir ball and so many other wonderful memories.
The Warfords are a deer and turkey hunting clan and have been as far back as anyone remembers. All my life I have been hearing deer and turkey hunting stories. As a kid I tagged along on several deer hunting trips but was never present when a deer was killed. My father was in the Air Force and while we visited as often as we could we were rarely in Arkansas during deer or turkey season. We were in Germany from the time I was 13 (1973) until I was 16 (1976). I was home for only one deer season before my grandfather passed away in 1977.
In the winter of 1976 my Pappaw sat my brother, cousin and I along a fence line on the old Griffith place and then let the hound dogs lose on the other side of the woods we were facing. We all heard the dogs coming toward us and then we heard what we thought was a deer moving parallel to us out of sight just inside the tree line. David, Shane and I were cold and frustrated when we headed back to the truck. The day would probably have been forgotten entirely but for an incident on the way back to the truck when a flock of black birds flew too close to our little group. Without one word being said by anyone the sky was suddenly filled with buckshot. That day has since been referred to in Warford family folklore as “the day it rained blackbirds.”
Little did I know that my first deer hunting trip would be my last for almost 40 years. From 1976 until 2006 deer and turkey hunting stories were rarely part of my life. Then in 2006 my oldest daughter, Melissa, married Heath Freeman. Heath is a hunter and comes from a family where women as well as men were hunters. It was not long until he had both of my daughters not only in the woods but killing deer and turkey. It was good to hear deer and turkey hunting stories again. It was after all part of our family heritage.
The girls, especially Melissa have been after me to let them take me hunting. This past week I decided to make time to go hunting. I was counting on what my Pappaw called beginners luck and it showed up big time. We were on the deer stand about an hour when Melissa, who was acting as my guide, spotted a young buck that was not legal. I was watching the young buck when Melissa became very excited. “Dad, dad there is a big buck coming through the woods.” He is going to pop out. Do you see him, do you see him?” She was whispering but very excited and I was staring up and down the tree line, I could see nothing. I was breathing hard and my glasses started to fog up. I told myself, you better calm down or you are going to mess up. You know how to shoot, focus – sight picture, breath control, trigger squeeze. I was calming down but I still could not locate the deer. Finally I realized the deer was to my side almost behind me and my view was blocked by a cedar tree. There was a gap in the cedar tree’s branches where I might have a shot but the deer was going to have to move out a few more steps. He was an older deer and he did not get that way by being reckless. He looked back and forth before he moved as if he were about to cross a busy street. Finally he stepped from the woods right into the only spot where I could have taken the shot. Call it beginners luck if you like but everything went perfect. I squeezed off a shot and the deer bolted down the tree line and out of sight. I was sure I had hit him but he sure did not act like it. Melissa and I ran ten yards or so in the same direction he ran and then we heard a big crash. He had run thirty or forty yards, jumped a brush pile, a fence and fell. I had killed my first deer. It was a nice nine pointer. I think Melissa was as excited as I was. I know my Pappaw would be pleased and I sure was. It was a good hunt. When is turkey season?
He or she is a chip off the old block; the apple (or acorn) does not fall far from the tree; like father like son; these are all idioms that express the same idea that children are often very much like their parents. The truth is every child is a twisted combination of the genes of two families not only do they take after Mom and Dad but the grandparent genes have a way of skipping a generation and showing up again. I, like most parent am proud of just about everything my kids do but also like most parents I am particularly proud when I see my kids do something that reminds me of myself. Each of my children has done things at one time or another that caused me to stand just a little bit taller and smiled just a little bit broader. These blog post are intended to one day be put together into a book for my children. One of the Chapters will be about the times when I was not only proud of my children but when I could see the reflection of myself in them.
My youngest child Noah is fast becoming a very impressive young man. Noah like the rest of the family loves music and can eat his weight in cheese dip. He is a straight A student like his Mom and Melissa (his oldest sister) and reads voraciously and has an artistic flair like his other sister, Kristina.
Noah is only eleven so he is still developing and trying to figure who he is and what he is going to be. It is exciting to see him exploring the world around him, and all the different possibilities. Whatever he decides to do with his life it is clear he has his Dad’s love of history. I would like to say I taught him to love history but the truth is I did not have anything to do with it. He taught himself. When he was just a little fellow he got a ruler as a prize at the fall festival at church. On this ruler were the faces of all of the American Presidents. Noah wanted to know who those men where and why they were important. He has taught himself all about the presidents. He has also learned about the first ladies. Whatever he does in life I think Noah will always have an interest in the people of the past and how government works. It pleases me that he and I share this area of interest and that he came to it on his own.
It also pleases me that Noah cares about other people. This past week was Noah’s parent/teacher conference. All his teachers love him but one teacher went on and on about how he had used his share time to talk about bullying. He encouraged the other kids not to bully and to take up for others when they are bullied. Most of the other eleven years olds use they share time to tell of a new toy or a family outing. Noah used his time to try to influence the behaviors of his friends in a positive way. It was clear that Noah not only impressed his teacher he actually moved her. When we ask him about it he acted like it was no big deal.
This story has been floating around in the back of my mind ever since we met with the teacher. Noah on his own initiative at eleven used his share time to tell a story in a moving way in an effort to motivate his class mates to respond in a positive way. Hmm, who does that for a living? Of course I first thought that is just like Dad. I am a lawyer and that is what I do. Then I thought that is also like his Grandpa Warford who was a Baptist preacher. It is also very similar to the many salesmen he has in the family like his grandpa Weir and great-uncle Chuck. Noah has boldness, a love of people and a persuasiveness that would help him be a great salesman, preacher or lawyer. Who knows what he might be but whatever he does I hope he will always keep his love of history.
My Mammaw, Sallie Warford, was a true homemaker in the way few women are these days. No offense to anyone but my Mammaw raised three boys without benefit of many of the modern appliances we have come to regard as necessities. One of many things Mammaw did to care for her family was to make quilts. The picture above is of Sallie Warford with friends from the Lonsdale Arkansas Quilting Club. Mammaw is third from the left. It is a rough estimate but we suspect this picture was taken around 1949. What we know is we have a picture of Mammaw wearing this same dress in about 1949 or 50. Our estimate is far from precise because Mammaw was know to mend and wear clothes for years and years. The picture could just as well have been taken in 1959.
Mammaw’s ability to mend any fabric was legendary in the Warford family. In 1977 she came a stayed with us for a few days and one day she decided to help my mom with the laundry. Well, she discovered that my brother and sister and I had all sorts of clothes that had holes in them. Now most of these were undergarments and socks and the holes were in places no one would ever see. These garments were on there way to the trash can at our house but Mammaw could not stand throwing away these clothes. Mammaw insisted on mending every garment in the house. Where holes were to large to close with stitching she used an old tee-shirt to create a patch and plug the hole. The patches were strong and comfortable. No rough edges on the feet or bottoms of Mammaw’s family.
For graduation in 1978 Mammaw gave me a quilt as a gift. This blanket was on my bed when I was single and after I got married it has always remained nearby. It has covered many house guest, hosted many picnics and been a play area for all my children. Eventually it was falling a part. One year for Christmas my wife, Mandy, found a women who was able to mend it and put it back in the same condition it was in when I got it. This was one of the most thoughtful Christmas gift I have ever received. The quilt is in the second picture – above right. It will always be one of my most prized possessions.
During World War II, Olga Baker Armand Griffith, was one of many women welders that took their place working along side the men in the shipyards of this country. This is her story in her own words. Her memory was beginning to fail her when this was film so we have spliced together two separate discussions to tell the full story.
Like most blogs this blog has frequent topics or categories. One of my favorite categories is Heirlooms. The things I am calling heirlooms are really just family keepsakes and have little or no value to anyone outside of my family. Nevertheless some of my heirlooms are coveted by several members of the family. Unfortunately that is not the case for today’s heirloom. Today’s heirloom is in search of a home. When I was ten years old (1969) my father, Kenneth Warford, was an Air Force chaplain stationed in South Vietnam. During the year he was overseas he sent me a number of souvenirs. Most have been lost or simply fallen apart in the years since the war but my most cherish souvenir from Vietnam survives. It is difficult to explain the bond I have with this particular heirloom. The close bond I have with this heirloom probably developed from the fact that it has always been in my room. For some reason, all of the women in my life, beginning with my mother, have encouraged my relationship with this heirloom. They have insisted this heirloom be kept in a place where I alone can enjoy it. Consequently I have taken especially good care of this heirloom and hope to someday pass it along to some member of my family. I am looking for someone to leave Jake to when I am gone. They need to be willing to love and appreciate Jake as I have. He is after all the only heirloom that I have actually named.
I am honored to introduce you to Jake. Jake is a cobra from Southeast Asia. Yes, at one time he was one of the most deadly creatures on earth but his venom glands were removed more than 40 years ago. He has not bitten anyone in the 40 plus years I have known him. As far as I know Jake is completely harmless accept maybe to people who have both ophidiophobia and a heart condition. If you have an abnormal fear of snakes and a heart condition you might want to pass on Jake otherwise Jake is an heirloom in search of a home.
If you are a member of my family even a very distant cousin and are willing to provide a loving home to Jake please contact me.
Sallie Louise Teague Warford was my paternal grandmother. I called her Mammaw. Mammaw was born February 12, 1910, at least that is what she reported throughout her adult life but census records actually call this into question. Sallie Teague show be listed with the rest of the family in the 1910 census but there is no Sallie Teague. The census does however show a Nellie Teague age 1. This raises several possibilities. Was Sallie originally called Nellie? Was Nellie another child that died before reaching her first birthday? Could Sallie have actually been born in February of 1910 or later? Did the census taker just write the name down wrong?
On ancestry.com some family trees list Nellie as a child that was born and died in about 1909 and shows Sallie being born about the same time. Other family trees list Nellie as an alternative or second name for Sallie. It is not uncommon for names to be miss-spelled or misunderstood in the handwritten census records of the early 1900s but that seems unlikely here for two reasons: first, because the name is very clearly written in 1910 (it is definitely Nellie) and second because Nellie was a family name. In fact, Sallie had an Aunt Nellie that was 11 years old in 1910.
I was hopeful that the 1920 census might resolve the question but it is anything but dispositive. The 1920 census does not show a Nellie Teague at all but shows a Sallie age 10. Again that could be because Nellie was Sallie or because Nellie had died and Sallie was not born until 1910. If Sallie was born in February 1909 then she would have been 10, on January 1, 1920 but would have been 11 when the census was completed in May 1920. If Sallie was actually born in February of 1910 she would have been 10 when the 1920 census was taken. So, the 1920 census could support either possibility.
There are many possible explanations but the two most likely explanations are either that Sallie was originally called Nellie and it was changed for some reason or Nellie was a different daughter, and Sallie was not born until 1910. If anyone out there knows the answer or has proof of Sallie’s birth date or proof that Nellie was or was not a separate daughter, I sure would like to know the answer to this mystery.
When my brother, (David) sister (Karen) and I were kids one of our favorite things to do was to build a fort or tree house. We built many of them over the years using just about anything we could find. When the weather was too bad to go outside we put together forts made of sheets strung between chairs and held in place by stacks of world book encyclopedias. If we could get our hands on some cardboard that worked well to for an indoor fort. Our indoor forts were quite creative but are true masterpieces were always outdoors especially the ones we could make when we went to Papaw’s house. At Papaw’s house we had access to axes, machetes, nails, hammers, rope, and sometimes even scrap lumber. We also usually had the help of our cousins Susie and Shane. Here are a few of many childhood stories that surround these forts and tree houses.
Hardhats must be worn at all times!
My uncle Chuck worked in a plant where hardhats had to be worn at all times. Uncle Chuck said this was for safety in case someone dropped a tool or something hard from a high place. Somehow or another we appropriated several of these hardhats that we were wearing while building a fort. I was the oldest and usually develop the rules for our games. You have to have rules when you play games or everybody will just do what they want and if there’s anything first children abhor it is chaos. On this occasion we were using the shell of a camper to build our fort and I had made a strict rule that no one should be inside the camper shell without a hardhat. Everyone was dutifully following the rule and everyone was working at their assigned task. My brother David was up on top of the camper removing small nails that had once held the original outer wall in place. Shane was bringing more materials. Susie and Karen were also helping. At times they work with us and at times they played house. Sometimes they would bring us pretend lunch. I was inside the camper shell working diligently to get a nail out of an old board and when I finally prided free I was pleased with my hard work. I stood up, took my hardhat off to wipe my brow the way I’d seen the men do. All of a sudden I had a sharp pain on the crown of my head. For a split second it was like I was unconscious and I fell to my hands and knees. I shook my head trying to figure out what it happened. A large goose egg was already growing on my head. Shane was standing outside the camper shell laughing so hard he was in danger of passing out. I looked straight at him with a look that sent him running backward yelling, “he did it, he did it” pointing toward the house. I looked toward the house and I saw David already halfway to the house. He was still clutching a ball pein hammer and yelling over and over, “you said hardhats must be worn at all times, you said hardhats must be worn at all times!”
We also love to barricade the drive way. We often did this when where waiting on our cousins or Mamaw and Papaw Griff. In this picture we have built a barricade blocking part of the drive coming up to Papaw’s house. In May of 1970 I would have been 10.
Summersaults and Nail Holes
There were two large oak trees in my Papaw and Mamaw’s yard. One day we decided we were going to build a tree house in the larger of the two. The problem was we could not reach the lowest limb even with our ladder. We were trying to figure out how to attach boards to the side of the tree that we could use as a ladder to climb up the tree. We decided it would be easier if we drove nails through the boards into the ground and then just nailed the pre-nailed boards in the tree. This was working pretty well and we had made it about five feet up off the ground. I had just finished nailing to nails into a board flipped it over and started another board when my brother jumped off the ladder and landed on two nails that were sticking up out of a board. He screamed like a little girl and started hopping all around and then did something of a somersault. Well, with all his gyrations the board came flying off of his foot and landed on the ground between him and the house. I ran over to him but before I could get there he jumped up and headed for the house and he stepped on that board again pushing those same two nails back into his foot. This time he fell on the ground and just started flopping around like a fish. I was trying but couldn’t catch hold of the board because of all the wiggling so I stepped on his foot and mashed his leg to the ground and grabbed the board. The nails were all the way through. I sat down put my feet against his behind and pushed with my feet while pulling the board and the nails came out. It was kind of painful pulling the nails out. The rubber on those shoes made a high-pitched squeak, like you get when you scratch a chalkboard. It makes me cringe to think about it. Oh, and I imagine David was hurting too.
Barbed Wire Safety Nets
David and I also had tree houses near our home in town. Although I was pretty reckless my brother David was the true wild man. Somehow or another David had figured out we could walk out on a large thick limb of an old oak tree and jump five or six feet to a smaller hardwood tree, throw our arms and legs around it as you flew by and it would spring back and forth wildly. Now this all occurred maybe twenty feet off the ground and in hindsight may have been a bit foolish but it was a heck of a lot of fun. The higher you jumped and grabbed hold of the tree the wilder the ride. David and I spent hours doing this and it was great fun until one day David leaped from the oak tree and tried to grab the hardwood at the very top and he missed the tree entirely with his hands. David’s feet caught the tree for a split second just long enough to spin him over and in a position where he was going to hit the ground head and neck first. I am standing to the side of the tree watching all this happen and I remember thinking, wheelchair! You see, my mom was always afraid one of us was going to end up in a wheelchair and if you’ve heard many of our family’s stories you know her fears were not completely unfounded. Standing there I literally thought, this is it, wheelchair! At that very second David crashed into some heavy brush and in that brush was an old rusty barb wire fence that we had never noticed before. David was wearing a heavy coat and his coat hung in the barb wire causing him to spin around and land on his feet. Other than a small hole in his coat he was fine. This was one of many times that I believe we would have been seriously injured or killed if God had not been watching over us.
The Difference in Hardwood and Softwood Trees
Hardwood trees and softwood trees have very different physical characteristics. Some of you may have taken a botany class or otherwise studied the difference in hard and softwood trees in school. I learned about the different characteristics of hard and softwood trees through a very different process. A month or two after the barbed wire safety net incident we were out at my grandparents and we spied a softwood pine tree that was growing right beside a large brush pile. Now the height of this brush pile, the height of the pine tree, the distance between them was all approximately the same as the tree swing we had been jumping and swinging on in town. This looked like a perfect tree swing. Shane, David and I debated among ourselves who would be the best to test this new tree swing and for some reason I let them talk me into being the tester. I climbed to the top of the brush pile and I checked it out and everything looked just right. Same size trees, same distance, what could go wrong? I leaped at the pine tree grabbing it perfectly with both hands and wrapped my feet around as I flew by but that tree did not bend, it did not bend even a little bit. My arms were almost yanked out of socket trying to hold on to the tree. So there is the first difference between hardwood trees and softwood trees. Hardwood trees are pliable and bend and softwood are stiff and will not bend. Now I had managed to learn this part of the lesson without suffering any pain, unfortunately, the lesson was not over. I am now about twenty feet up in the air and I have to get down and I am wearing shorts and a thin T-shirt. The second lesson was that hardwood trees have a smooth bark and softwood trees have an extremely rough bark, you know the kind that will cut your body, your hands and your arms if you try to slide down it.
I Will Wash Your Mouth Out With Soap
The forts in the first pictures were built in 1971 when I was 12. Being a twelve year old and pretty near grown I had learned a few bad words which I shared with my siblings and cousins. We were all up in the forts having great fun and trying our new words until my little sister, Karen snitched on us to Mom. She was upset because we were keeping her locked up too long in the stockade. My Mom made all of us come into the bathroom one at a time and she washed our mouths out with soap. Let me just tell you that was some nasty tasting stuff. We learn our lesson though none of us would ever cuss again in front of Karen.