Tradition of Service – A Veteran’s Day Salute

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My family, like many families in this country, has a tradition of military service. We are not war mongers or part of some warrior class; no member of our family has ever attended a military academy and only one of the people pictured above sought the military as a career. I do not wish to diminish the service of those who were drafted and did there duty but I think military service at least in combat units should be on a volunteer basis.  I am of the opinion that in a free and democratic society any war that cannot be fought with volunteer troops should not be fought. There is no greater form of democracy than a muster.  A muster is an assemble in preparation for battle.  It is far to easy for politicians to vote to send other people and other people’s kids to war to permit a draft.  If the government cannot muster a volunteer army to fight a war that is a pretty good indicator the people of this nation are not behind the war and we should stay home. All that said, I am proud of my families tradition of military service.  

This picture was put together as a Veteran’s Day salute to the many members of our family that have served in the military. Left to right on top – Eddie Warford, US Army; Fred Griffith was regular Army before WWII and served most of the war in the First Special Services Force ( Devil’s Brigade); Jinnings G. Burruss was an assault boat driver, USN, and served in the Battle of Okinawan; William Armand, USMC, Vietnam; Kenneth Warford, USAF, Vietnam; David Warford, USN; Jerry Warford USAF, Vietnam; Olga Griffith, Olga was my grandmother and she was not a veteran but she was a welder and built warships during WWII and I choose to honor her with the other veterans in my family.

May God bless the many Veterans that have served this country and especially bless the many warriors that suffer still from wounds, both physical and mental.

The Bobcat Wedding Night – Sallie Teague Warford and Elmer Quincy Warford

Elmer and Sallie Warford on their 50th Wedding Anniversary.
October 31, 1976

My grandparents, Elmer and Sallie Warford were married October 31, 1926, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. There was no cake, no toast and no photographer. After the ceremony the couple made their way back to the old Warford home place in Saline County near Lonsdale. It was after dark when they arrived at what would become their new home. The home had not been lived in for some time and was a rather rustic cabin. Now my grandmother was by the standards of the day, something of a city girl, having been raised on a dairy in Hot Springs. She was completely unprepared for what was waiting inside. My grandfather lit a lantern and opened the latch string door. He walked into the main room of the cabin which also served as the kitchen and dining room and set the lantern up on the table. When the lantern hit one end of the table a bobcat jumped from the dark corners of the room and landed on the other end. The bobcat let out a shrill hissing sound and bared its teeth. My grandfather beat a hasty retreat to the door only to find that my grandmother had slammed the door locking it tight. The bobcat was as afraid of my grandfather as my grandfather was of the bobcat and fortunately the bobcat still had a way out. The bobcat bounded around the room a couple of times and then shot out through a vent in the roof of the cabin. My grandfather loved to tell this story. At the end he would say something like, “now that is what I would call an exciting wedding night.” 

My grandparents had hard times and good times but throughout 50 years they were committed to each other and their family. On October 31, 1976, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the home of Chuck and Linda Warford. Linda was the perfect hostess and we had a formal toast (punch of course), a beautiful wedding cake and even a photographer.  Well, we sort of had a photographer, I actually took these pictures.

First Day of Deer Season

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Kenneth Warford and Sally Warford in her Kitchen

Now my cousins and I called our grandmother, Mamaw, but the whole community called her, Aunt Sally. One cold November morning around 1968, or maybe 1969, I was staying with my Papaw and Mamaw. I was sleeping on the couch and I was awakened by my Papaw stoking the cast iron firebox in the corner of the living room. They were country folk of modest means and they did not have central heat and air. I’m not sure what time it was but I am guessing it was three-thirty or four o’clock in the morning. From where I was laying I could see into the kitchen that my Mamaw was cooking and a half-dozen men were sitting around the table eating. My Papaw said, “Lloyd, there are going to be a whole bunch of people in here in a minute why don’t you go back and lay down in my bed.” I could see one of my uncles, my grandfather and several men I knew from their church. I remembered then that it was the first day of deer season. I wanted to get up but I was so tired and I dozed off for just a little bit. I was startled when another group of men burst through the front door.

One of the men that came in was my cousin, Eddie, as he came in Eddie, shouted, “city boy what are you still doing in that bed don’t you know it’s the first day of deer season.” I got up and I followed the men to the kitchen. I couldn’t believe all the food that was on the table. There were all the normal things she cooked for breakfast, big homemade biscuits, slab bacon, ham, white gravy and my grandma’s specialty rice and chocolate gravy. It was a southern style breakfast feasts but there were other things you did not normally eat at breakfast like mashed potatoes and venison. I think my Mamaw might just have cooked everything she knew how to cook. Over the next hour or so one group of men after another came to the door, some knocked and some just walked in. My grandma greeted them all and offered them a plate. I have no idea how many men came through and ate that morning but I would not be surprised if it was 50 men. Now later in the day I did hear Mamaw tell my Papaw that she was getting too old to cook all night but that morning she insisted everyone eat and everyone did. In fact I am pretty sure her feelings would have been hurt if anyone had not had a full plate of food.
Some men ate and took off but most stayed. They were waiting on something. Some were concerned that it was not long until sunup. Finally a man arrived I knew him as the pastor of Ten Mile Baptist Church. The preacher wasn’t dressed for the hunt and made and excuse that he had some business to attend to that morning. One of the men joked; we ought to cut your shirttail off for missing the first day of deer season. Everyone laughed. The pastor then asked, “will everyone join me in prayer.” The Pastor asked God to bless the hunt and he pray for the safety of the men in our community. There was a hardy Amen all around and they were off.
Regrettably this was the only time I was at my grandparents for the first day of deer season. I don’t know if this was a one-time event or a community tradition. Either way it is a wonderful memory and I am glad I was there. The world has change a lot since 1969. In those days we killed deer we didn’t harvest them. I suspect my Pawpaw would snicker at harvesting deer and figure that was something some city-slicker must have come up with. There were no women on that hunt. Today both my daughters are deer hunters. I would give anything if I could send a text or email to my Papaw with a picture of one of the deer they have killed. I know that would bring my Papaw a great deal of joy.

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Papaw Warford and some of my Cousins and Family Friends

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Melissa Warford Freeman

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Kristina Warford

Eulogy of Jinnings Burruss December 23 1920 – November 3, 2013

Jinnings Burruss

Jinnings Burruss was born December 23, 1920 into a very different world than we live in today. His life would span almost a century and he saw extraordinary change. When Jinnings was born neither the star spangled banner or the pledge of allegiance had been officially adopted.  The President of the United States was Warren G. Harding.  Harding was the 29th President of the United States and Jinnings would live to see 15 more presidents.  Jinnings lived through the roaring twenties, the great depression, the Second World War, the Cold War. He saw the berlin wall go up and watched it torn down.

I don’t know who wrote Jinnings’ obituary but they did an excellent job honoring Jinnings life.  The obituary said Jinnings was raised during hard times. That is exactly how Jinnings would describe his childhood.  Jinnings was born at a time when most rural Americans had no electricity, no running water and no indoor plumbing and the Burruss family had less than most. There was no TV, no radio and only one newspaper. It was not distributed to much of the state but it didn’t matter since most Arkansans could not read.

I love history and I love talking to people older than I am about the historical events they lived through. Unfortunately it is getting harder and harder every year to find people that are older than me.  One day I was talking to Jinnings and I asked him what he could remember about when the stock market crash in 1929.  Jinnings said, well, I recon I probably heard about the stock market crash but it didn’t mean anything to us we were already poor. Jinnings and his brother Hugh were helping support the family at an age when kids today aren’t allowed to stay at home without supervision.

Jinnings Burruss was a proud veteran of World War II and it was suggested that I might wear my old army uniform today in honor of Jinnings service.  I would love to have worn my uniform but regrettably I no longer fit in my uniform. The only part of my uniform I can still get on are these airborne wings.  Today I proudly wear my airborne wings in honor of my fellow veteran Seaman Jinnings Burruss.

When Jinnings joined the Navy he boarded a train in rural Arkansas and got off at the “U.S. Naval Training Center, the Bronx, New York City.  It was a great adventure. One he never forgot. The last time we talked when he was still at home he was still amazed and went on and on about what it was like for a small town country boy from Arkansas to end up in NYC.

He would go from there to California and then cross the ocean.  Jinnings would eventually take part in the Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, the battle was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific theater of World War II. Four army Divisions and 2 Marine Divisions were landed on the Island. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945.

On the first day of the battle Jinnings was piloting one of the lead landing craft in the second wave that was to hit the beach. Jinnings could see in front of him that the landing craft in the first wave were getting stuck on a reef and were dropping their load of Marines in water that was waste deep or higher.  Jinnings orders were to drive straight into the beach. Jinnings told me, “I knew that if I went straight in I was going to get stuck on that reef and those Marines would be sitting ducks.”  I may not get this part right. I don’t know much about boats and can’t remember exactly what Jinnings said he did but somehow Jinnings turned his boat in such a way that he was able to drive it either around or over the reef.  Jinnings deliver those Marines to the beach safe and dry.  Jinnings took great pride in accomplishing his mission and putting that handful of Marines on the beach safe and dry. That first landing was only the beginning of the battle and Jinnings would spend weeks piloting his landing craft back and forth to shore carrying men, supplies and eventually wounded.

Jinnings like millions of other veterans serve his country with honor and then he came home and lived the rest of his life with the same honor. He worked hard and raised a fine family that I am proud to have married into.  When I met Jinnings he was retired but he was still working hard. He was working hard at fishing, picking pecans and tending to his garden. Every time we went to Bradford he insisted we take a bag of pecans home.

I met Jinnings and many of you in the summer of 1991 when Mandy brought me to a family picnic. I think it was the 4th of July. We had a whole table full of casseroles and ham.  For dessert we had pecan pie and homemade ice cream.  After lunch I fell asleep in a lounge chair.  I don’t think the ladies in the Burruss family were too keen on my first appearance in Bradford but before I left Jinnings eased up beside me, he put his hand on my arm, and said, “that Mandy is something special, take good care of her” and then he invited me to come back any time. He always made me feel at home. Jinnings honestly made me feel like family from my very first visit to Bradford.

In preparing this eulogy I of course racked my brain trying to think of the right words to describe Jinnings Burruss.  I was of course looking for something that would sound profound, perhaps spiritual with a little lawyer twist but what I kept thinking was Jinnings Burruss was a happy man. Jinnings Burruss was a happy man.  I began to think about how hard it is in this world of ours to be happy and how rare truly happy people are. I have been thinking about little else for three days and I am convinced that the secret to Jinnings Burruss happiness was contentment.  He loved his family, his community and he loved his life.  Jinnings Burruss coveted no man and he was content with what God had given him.  Jinnings Burruss lived the fruits of the Spirit every day. In him you could see, love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control.

Jinnings life was anything but perfect.  He endured many trials and much loss but somehow he never dwelled in the past.  He faced loss, he grieved, and then he looked to the future and lived every day with joyful anticipation.  If Jinnings could speak to each of you today I believe he would tell each of you to celebrate his life, grieve his loss and then look to your future. Live your life with joy and anticipation being content with what God gives you and most of all, be sure to make time to go fishing.

Delivered November 5, 2013, by Lloyd Warford

“There is no rewind on that movie.”

The Stebbins Family

The Stebbins Family

The picture above is of my cousin, Heather Armand Stebbin’s and her family. I love all my cousins and their families but I get a special joy watching the Stebbins.  I grew up in a family of two boys and a girl with very similar age differences. Watching her family brings back so many memories of my childhood. With three young children in the house there is constant motion. Just getting a picture with everyone happy and looking at the camera can be a challenge. Heather and her husband Ted always take whatever happens in stride.

Recently Heather posted on her Facebook a quote from a devotional by Jen Haymaker that she came across during her morning quiet time. “You will never have this day with your children again. Tomorrow, they’ll be a little older than they were today. This day is a gift. Breathe and notice. Smell and touch them; study their faces and little feet and pay attention. Relish the charms of the present. Enjoy today, mama. It will be over before you know it.” —

This quote struck a nerve with Heather as it did with my wife who immediately responded. Within a few minutes a number of other young mothers also expressed how moved they were by this quote and more importantly the reality of the very short time they have with their children.

Now my Papaw Warford had his own way of teaching this same lesson to my mother and other young parents. His words lacked the elegance of Jen Haymaker’s but he could always make his point. With a soft grin and a wink of his eye, Papaw would tell young parents “there is no rewind on that movie.” He encouraged them to make the time to invest themselves in their children and to enjoy every minute of their childhood.

The old King James Version of the Bible said “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”  The English Standard Version says “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”  This biblical charge found at Ephesians 5:16 is not just for mothers it is for all of us. We are all to make the best of every day but these words have a special implication for parents. A childhood is but a fraction of a lifetime and some of the stages of a child’s life can be calculated in hours. Like scenes in a movie the events in a child’s life flash before our eyes and they are gone. First words, first steps, first cookie, first day of school, first car and so on. Every day with a child really is a one shot affair, there is after all, “no rewind on that movie.”

“I have seen whole families like that.”

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From L to R Lloyd Warford (me), Papaw Elmer Warford and David Warford (brother) Taken in 1968 after a deep sea fishing trip off the Coast of North Carolina on a boat called the Danco.

When I was a kid and I would say, “Papaw, I am hungry,” my Papaw would say “I have seen whole families like that.”  My Papaw was a walking encyclopedia of old sayings and I love most of them but when I was a kid I never like this one very much.  He used it all the time.  Papaw I’m thirsty. “I have seen whole families like that.” Papaw I need some money. “I have seen whole families like that.” Papaw I need a new fishing pole. “I have seen whole families like that.” This little old saying was the ultimate kid block. That saying was my Papaw’s way of telling you that you didn’t really need that and you can make do without it. He was not being unkind; he never had much money and he wanted us kids to understand the difference in wants and needs.  If Papaw got you a Safeway soda water and a moon pie for a fishing trip it was a big deal.  Most of the time before you got your moon pie and a trip to the pond there was work to be done and my Papaw never worried about child labor laws. We built fence, plowed fields, fed hogs, bailed hay and so on and so forth.

Here is the thing; every one of my Papaw’s grandkids will tell you that Papaw Warford spoiled all of us rotten.   He spoiled us with his time, his attention and his unwavering support.  When it came to his grandkids Papaw Warford was the most easygoing man I have ever known.  It didn’t matter what you did Papaw was okay with it as long as you were doing the best you could. If the field was plowed a little crooked he wasn’t worried about it.  I remember looking at a field I had plowed one time and it was a mess.  All Papaw said was “Lloyd that lower end of the field is a little catawampus but I think we can make it work.” On another occasion one of my cousins, Shane Warford, ran the tractor into a row of fence.  Papaw said “Shane, you need to be more careful next time” and that was the end of it.  There was fence to repair and nothing else needed to be said.

I now have an fourteen year old son, Noah. Of all of my Papaw’s sayings the one I hear coming out of my mouth the most is “I have seen whole families like that.” I don’t think Noah appreciates that saying any more than I did when I was a kid but I know he will someday when he has a son of his own.

Heirlooms

Without delving too far in to old English common law the basic idea behind an heirloom is that it is something passed down from generation to generation within a family. As you might imagine being the self-appointed family historian I have accumulated a number of items which I consider to be heirlooms. Most of these items have no real intrinsic value to anyone. They are important only because they represent a connection to the to those who have gone before us. My hope is to give each of my children at least one heirloom that will mean something to them.

I have always love photographs. When I was a child I would spend hours rifling through the shoe boxes full of photographs that my parents had collected over the years. As a young adult I dug all of those photographs out of shoeboxes and put them in albums. When I was in high school I wanted to be a photographer and I begged my parents for a 35mm camera. We didn’t have a lot of money at the time and cameras were quite expensive but for Christmas they managed to get me a Pentax 35mm camera.  I love that Pentax but that’s not my most important camera, my most important camera, is a Browning box camera.

This camera belonged to my grandmother, Olga Baker, Armand, Griffith. I consider this camera to be an heirloom and it is my hope that it will be passed down in our family along with the pictures here and the stories behind the camera and each of these pictures.  The first picture (above) is of the Browning camera. The second picture (below) is of my Mom using a camera just like this one to take my picture. We can’t be for sure it is this very camera because there were a couple in the family but this camera is old enough and could be the camera in the picture.  The last picture is the picture my mother took with the camera in the picture. These pictures were taken on or very close to my first birthday in August 1960.1960 - Kenneth Lloyd Warford 004

My middle child Kristina has my love for photography and pictures so much so that she has made it her profession and has started her own photography business. In May 2013 two of her pictures were published in the Arkansas Bride magazine. There are a lot of photographers in Arkansas who work hard at it every day and it was quite an accomplishment for Kristina to have to photographs selected for publication. I am so proud of Kristina for having a dream in going after it.

Whether Kristina sticks with the photography as a profession or moves on to other things I will always be proud of her photographic accomplishments and I hope she will always share my love for photography.

Kristina when I leave this world I want you to have this camera. I hope you will care for it and someday pass it on to another member of the family who loves photography asking them to safeguard this camera and these memories.

The last picture is of Kristina with her modern camera and one of her wedding portraits. See more of Kristina’s photography at http://kmwarford.zenfolio.com/

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The Magic Word

1984-06 Melissa Warford 001Persistence – To try and try again.

When my oldest daughter, Melissa, was learning to talk one of her first words was persistence. I would ask her, what’s the magic word, and she would say, persistence. What’s that mean, I would ask, and she would say, try and try again. Lest anyone think I was attempting to start some sort of cult let me share with you how all this came about.

When I was in college I took a course in education psychology. My teacher hammered into us that parents create in their children a core set of fundamental beliefs that govern how the child will respond to the world. She emphasized that the number of ideas that would form this core group of beliefs would be relatively small but that they would have an indelible impact on the child. Normally this implanting of values is done by parents with very little thought. In most cases what we do reflects what our parents did. My instructor challenged us to sit down and carefully decide what theme or themes we want to create in our home. Her ideal was to consciously pass on the good we learned from our parents but to leave the bad behind.

She opined that if a parent tried to teach too many beliefs the parents impact would actually be diluted, so we had to create a focus for ourselves and our children. To create a theme in our home and in our child a handful of values or beliefs had to be reinforce to the exclusion of others. We had to write a short paper identifying the core values we would attempt to transfer to our children and why. For my class project I chose faith, family and persistence.

I took all this to heart and set about teaching Melissa persistence. Man did I succeed. Melissa’s persistence is legendary. There were times especially when she was a teenager that I had serious doubts about the wisdom of me teaching Melissa to be so persistent. To this day Melissa is focused and extremely persistent about everything in her life. She is truly amazing and fortunately she has learned some patience as she has gotten older.

When my second daughter, Kristina, was born I chose the same three core values I had taught Melissa but I added a fourth, patience.

Parenting and The Old Sayings

I want to introduce a couple of new categories to my blog, Parenting and Old Sayings. These categories will probably become chapters in the book when I put this all together for my kids.

I first became a parent more than 30 years ago.  By the time my youngest graduates from High School I will have had a child under eighteen for more than forty years.  My parenting style is to try to talk to my children as much as they can stand it about life’s hard choices and dangerous pitfalls. Now kids are incredibly impatient with parents trying to parent them and most of them have the ability to turn you off in a matter of minutes. My strategy has always been to keep my little talks short but to be intentionally redundant.  In writing being redundant is a bad thing but I am convinced that being redundant as a parent can make the difference in a child who gets it and one that doesn’t.  I was so redundant with my oldest, Melissa, that when she was a teenager she claimed she had started numbering my old sayings and lectures.  When the situation permits I always try to add a little humor to the lesson and I have found the old saying to be a helpful tool.

For years I have said to one of my three children “there is an old saying…”  The old saying was of course intended to teach a lesson or impart some wisdom. Once they learn the old saying then I look for chances to reinforce it.  When I see one of them or another young person violating one of the old sayings, I would say, “did you forget the old saying” or ask, “that kid didn’t know the old sayings did they?”  Now that I am thinking about it, it has become something of an old saying for me to say, “They didn’t learn the old sayings did they?”

Since old sayings are a big part of my parenting style these two categories will often overlap. Some of the old sayings are not about imparting wisdom they are just fun ways to say the everyday things parents are forced to say. I got most of my sayings from my Parents and Grandparents. Not that they made them up, most have been around for generations. Some came from the Bible. A few I sort of came up with myself. When I say I came up with a saying I usually mean I found a modern way of communicating and old concept. My blog post on the old sayings and parenting stories will usually be shorter than my other post but I hope you find them entertaining.

The Old Home Place

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I was born in Houston, Texas but my parents moved to Arkansas when I was only about six weeks old. This was the first of many moves. For most of my childhood my father was either a Baptist preacher or an Air Force Chaplain. We had a good life but we were nomads. From the time I was born until I left home I never spent more than three Christmases in the same house. When we got to Arkansas we went to Papaw and Mamaw’s house. This picture is actually my first Warford family picture. It was, I am told, a very big occasion but as you can see I appear to have slept through the whole thing.

I love this old picture for many reasons. Obviously the fact that it was a first is a pretty big deal but there is something else. Most of the Warfords from my line, at least the ones that have gray hair or color it, refer to that little white house as the old home place. Can you see the porch right there on the front of that little house? One glance at that porch drowns me in memories. That porch was an all-weather playground for all the kids in my family. So many things happened on that porch. When we played hide and seek that porch was the base, when we ate watermelon we ate it on that porch, when I got my hair cut it was cut on that porch, we shot firecrackers, bottle rockets, BB Guns, rifles and shotguns off that porch. I could probably fill a nice little book with porch stories but for now let me just say that was one seriously all-purpose porch.

It is hard to explain, I never lived in the little white house at the end of Warford road and I never visited there for more than thirty days at a time but for me the little white house in this picture will always be my old home place.