Posts Tagged ‘horses’


Polly Voyles

Helen “Polly” Voyles

When I was a small child, I was bedridden with heart disease. This aggravation took three active years out of my life. Those years were eased greatly by a mother who loved to read and she read to me often, so often in fact, she regularly lost her voice. My two sisters knew our mother saved her voice for me and understood when she did not always answer them verbally. Looking back on my childhood, I realize that is how my mother, Helen Voyles-Story, demonstrated her love for me.
But it was when she put the book down and got that gleam in her big brown eyes that I longed for. And it happened just like that one winter day as I watched the snow fall outside my bedroom window, all the while listening to a tale about Tom Kitten.

Mama put the book down.

Together we watched snowflakes fall from the sky, snow that began to stick to the trees in our woodsy backyard.
It had already been a busy morning. She fed me my breakfast because I could not hold a fork. She carried me piggyback to the restroom because I could not walk. She sponged bathed me and dressed me in clean pajamas. Mama wrapped me warmly with one of her grandmother’s homemade quilts as I lied in a small bed in the back bedroom. She read to me in hopes I would drift back to sleep, because she had a lot to do. Breakfast dishes needed to be washed and the laundry folded while my two sisters were at school, but not today. Today Mama would sit with me and talk most of the day away – just the two of us. Putting the “beans on” for supper time would have to wait.
Mama chuckled as she rolled me over to rub my back.
“Diane, let me tell you about a rascal of a little cat I had when I was a little girl about your age. That silly cat followed me around from pillar to post. That was back when I was called Polly.” She couldn’t help but chuckle to herself as she brought up the memories.
I turned back over and smiled at her; I was all ears.
“Yes, Tom Kitten reminds me of that cat. Of course, I was not allowed to own a cat. Ya PawPaw would not allow a cat in the house. And believe you me, that cat knew to stay outta his way.” She could not hold her laughter back. “Well, I don’t know why, but that cat just took up with me and followed me around everywhere I went.”
“Is it the same cat that followed you to the cotton field?”
“Yes, the very one, he’d follow me down the cotton rows and crawl in my cotton bag for a ride; that made my bag look heavy like I had picked a lot of cotton. When I held the bag up for my parents to see, they’d say, ‘Polly, that’s enough, you can read now.’ Then I’d empty my cotton-slash-cat bag into the wagon, sit down and read a book. Yes, ol’ Cat and I were a team.”
“What was his name?”
“I called him ol’ Cat. I couldn’t name him, because that would be claiming it. Ol’ Cat slipped into the house one night. It was Christmas Eve and I let him hide in my bedroom. Daddy was out late – working. My sister, Mary Frances and I had the Christmas tree decorated. Back then we used real candles to light the tree. We worked for days making decoration and couldn’t wait for Daddy to come home so we could light those candles.”
“PawPaw worked on Christmas Eve?”
“Yes, that’s when we lived on Old Norcross in Tucker. He worked any time someone’s well ran dry; water’s a necessity you know. Wade Voyles could walk a place over and study the lay of the land and dig, always found water. Not everybody could do that. You know he studied at Georgia Tech; in the forties he studied War Training, got a foreman and supervisor degree, and that man knew how to find water. Yes, when someone needed water, they called on Wade Voyles.”
“Anyway, he came home late that Christmas Eve – tired and dirty. We got the matches out and he told us to go ahead and light the candles. Mama put his supper plate on a little table in the living room; that way he could watch us. Frances lit the candles high up and I lit the ones near the bottom.”
“What’s so funny?” I asked as Mama laughed out loud.
“Well, I’m gonna tell you what’s funny, Diane. That ol’ Cat slipped into the living room and for some reason, ran and jumped into the middle of that Christmas tree!”
“Did he catch on fire?”
“No, by some miracle he did not catch fire, but he let out a loud squall that was terrifying! He clung on for dear life and that tree wobbled to and fro! Frances ran and opened the front door. When she did, ol’ Cat darted out! The wind blew in and poof! Instantly, that tree was engulfed in flames – from top to bottom.”
I was shocked.
“Daddy stood up, walked over to the blazing Christmas tree and put his big foot into it – and – out the door it went – a ball of fire sailing through the night air!”
“Oh no, Mama, did you get another tree?”
“No, it was late Christmas Eve; there was no time to go to Aunt Mae’s for another tree. And there I stood, within seconds, no cat and no Christmas tree. I wondered: Will Santa come tonight? What if I never see ol’ Cat again – no tellin’ how many hours I’d have to spend in the cotton field, I’d probably never have time to read another book.”
“What did PawPaw say? Were you in trouble for having the cat in the house?”
“Wade Voyles never said a word. He walked back to the little table, sat down and finished eating his supper. Mama didn’t say anything either except, ‘Wade, do you want some more oyster stew?’”
“What a night.” Mama looked a tad dreamy eyed as she continued her story. “The next morning I woke up and there was that little table Daddy was eating on – in the middle of the living room floor. On that little table was a cedar tree limb stuck in Mama’s lemonade pitcher. It was decorated with a little this and that – looked like Frances’ handiwork,” Mama said with an all knowing eye.” And there were a few gifts for me under that limb.”
“What? What did you get, Mama?”
“I got a new dress, and a book, Little Women, and a funny looking little brush.” Mama smiled big at the thought. “I looked at the little brush with puzzlement. Frances whispered to me, ‘Polly, it’s a cat brush.’ I quickly slipped that little brush in my pocket and opened the front door to check on the weather; and when I opened the door, ol’ Cat slipped into the house, just as pretty as you please.”
My mother took my temperature again and made a note on her medical chart. I had to think fast to keep her in my room. As soon as the thermometer was out of my mouth I asked, “Did you buy all of your Christmas trees from Aunt Mae?”
“Buy nothing! Aunt Mae wouldn’t take a penny from us. And it wasn’t Christmas until I’d gone to her tree farm, and that was well after I married ya Daddy.”
It worked, she sat back down.
“As soon as Tucker School broke for Christmas, I packed my little suitcase and waited on Uncle Tom Moon. I never knew when he was coming, didn’t have a phone back then you know. I just knew he was coming to Tucker sooner or later for supplies and would swing by Old Norcross and pick me up. No matter how cold it was, I sat on the front porch steps listening for the wagon wheels and the clip clop sound of the horses.”
“Horses! They didn’t have a car?”
“No, they did not have a car. It was in the thirties and folks were trying to survive the Depression. Most roads back then were dirt roads, old logging trails widen to accommodate cars and horses. Yes, some had cars, but there was still plenty room for the horse and buggy. Anyway, every year I went to Aunt Mae and Uncle Tom Moon’s to select my Christmas tree.”
I was surprised to know my mother knew anything about horses.
“Mama, tell me about the horses . . .”
“I loved those old horses. I petted them and hugged on ’em, but wasted no time climbing onto the wagon. We left Old Norcross and eased out of Tucker down a dirt road through the woods; trees thick on both sides, every tree imaginable. I passed time by identifying trees. Recognizing trees was easy during summer when the leaves gave their identity away, but not so easy in winter. If I got one wrong, Uncle Tom Moon grunted.”
“What kind of trees did you see?”
“Georgia trees: poplar, sycamore, sugar maple, silver maple, hickory, holly, black walnut, sweet gum and dogwood – all stripped down bare except for the pines, cedars and magnolias. The oaks were easy to spot, ‘cause the dead leaves clung on until spring. And of course, acorns marked the spot of the great oaks. The horse trots made a sound like two coconut shells keeping time to a tune. We passed by dried up cotton fields with a hint of white – cotton overlooked by the pickers, looked a little like snow. And there were homes here and there and about. I was excited and could hardly wait to see Aunt Mae and the mountain.”
“The mountain?”
“Yes, Diane, the mountain – Stone Mountain – that’s where we were headed, and I knew we were almost there when I could see the granite dome. I have to admit it was a little spooky while deep in the woods. The clip clop of the horse hooves was mesmerizing; with each sound I was going deeper into an enchanted forest, not to mention Santa was on the way. And when Santa arrived, I, Polly Voyles, would have the most beautiful Christmas tree in all of Tucker.”
“Why was it spooky?”
“Spooky because back then, there weren’t that many houses around – just a few farms here and there. And the woods made unexplainable noises at times. It didn’t bother Uncle Tom Moon a bit nor was he much of a talker; he was a curious sort. Once we saw smoke rising through the trees in the distance. He said, ‘Look there, Polly, smoke rise. The Indians made smoke rising a common sight back in the day, but not now.’ Of course, I had to ask why and he said, ‘White man.’”
“What did the white man have to do with the Indians? When did they leave? Where did they go to school? I asked a million questions as any small child would. He clicked to the horses and turned left near what was the Rosser farm and went down a ways from the mountain. In a while, he clicked again and turned right back toward the mountain. We passed the place where they made sorghum syrup before he spoke.”
“The Cherokee Indians used to hunt these woods – smoke rise was the only way you’d know they were here. They used the mountain top as a look-out post. They’d see you, but you never saw them. All’s left now’s . . . their spirit.”
“Mama, did you ever see any Indians when you were out with Uncle Tom Moon?”
“Not a one, Diane, and believe you me, when we went through those roads in an open wagon, my eyes were peeled and my ears were listening hard. Once in a while I’d hear rustling in the woods; sometimes I got a glimpse of a rabbit or deer, sometimes a fox. And then again, I’d hear the call of a crow or a bird singing. I saw shadows in the woods, probably just the sun light filtering through. I felt edgy about maybe seeing an Indian, but not really afraid, because Uncle Tom Moon liked them, I could tell he did. And he seemed a little miffed that they were gone. And then in no time at all, I saw Christmas trees – white pines – bluish green trees, all in perfectly straight rows. Uncle Tom Moon then handed the reins to me.”
“You drove the horses?”
“Well, at that point, the horses knew where we were and they took themselves home. And there standing waiting for me was Mae Moon. She was a tall thin woman who most always balled her hair up. She never had children, for some reason she sorta claimed me.”
“I remember her. She was very old.”
“As long as I can remember, Aunt Mae seemed on up in years, even when her hair was black.” Mama shook her head, and got back to her story. “I could not wait to pick out my Christmas tree, but she insisted on order – first things first. I was to go into the farmhouse to warm and have something to eat. And then there were Christmas cookies to make; Gingerbread-men and Gingerbread-women, not to mention the Snowball family made of popcorn balls, and everyone of them had to be decorated just so.”
“I was anxious to pick out my tree. On about the third day, Aunt Mae wrapped her head in a woolen scarf and I knew it was the moment I’d been waiting for, walking the Christmas tree farm. She had already looked over the trees and tied a long white ribbon on about five likely candidates. I always wanted a bigger tree, but she would laugh and say – ‘that tree will not fit inside your house! Wade and Lois will have to cut a hole in the roof!’ Oh how I loved spending my few days with Aunt Mae. I examined each tree closely. I do recall one special day when I made my decision.”
Mama looked out the window at the snow coming down, deep in thought.
“While examining one marked tree, I happened to look beyond the tree and saw the mountain. Now mind you, I had seen that mountain countless times, but that day, it was like seeing it for the first time. I felt like I was dreaming. Then I felt something cold hit my face; to my surprise, it was snowing.”
“Like it is today, Mama?”
“Yes, Diane, snowing just like it is today.” Mama reached for my hand and held it, then turned her attention back to the window.
“Aunt Mae held my hand as we watched the snowflakes fall from the sky. Neither of us spoke as we stood there admiring my tree; neither caring about the cold. I knew then that I would always remember that moment. After a while, Aunt Mae let go of my hand and stepped forward. She took a long white ribbon – a remnant of an old sheet – and tied it into a big bow – that way Uncle Tom Moon would know which tree to cut for me. Though Aunt Mae was standing near, the snow buffered her voice, and she seemed far away when she spoke, ‘Polly, would you look at that? An abandoned nest with a robin egg blue, no prettier color in the entire world.’ Our eyes focused on the robin egg that would never hatch. A bit of sadness crept upon me, thinking of what would never be, and then strangely enough, I felt someone watching from afar. I gazed up at the mountain top, but saw no movement. The feeling did not leave me and I hoped it was a Cherokee admiring my Christmas tree, my tree, finely decorated with a genuine bird’s nest, robin egg blue and a fancy white bow, all topped off with new fallen snow.”

Mama paused for a moment. Her eyes were far from my sick bed, yes, she was a million miles away. A slow smile gave her heart and mind away as she spoke.

“Yes, that day I sensed the great spirit of the Cherokee. I wished the spirit of the Cherokee children could see me, me and my Aunt Mae.”

 

On November 17, 1931, my mother was born in Nicholson, Georgia, but lived her whole life in Tucker, Georgia, in the shadow of Stone Mountain. Her name was Annie Helen Voyles-Story, but was “Polly” to near and dear ones who knew her as a cotton-top child. Later she was affectionately called Nanny, by her grandchildren. She loved a good book and we all enjoyed story time with her. In time, I would learn that the dirt road from Tucker to Stone Mountain was named after an Atlanta attorney, Hugh Howell. The Christmas tree farm was located on Old Tucker Road. The Moon’s farm became a part of a development called Smoke Rise, and of course, the mountain is Stone Mountain.
Each and every time I drive down Hugh Howell Road or hike the Cherokee Trail or find myself atop the granite mountain, I too feel the presence of a great spirit: little Polly Voyles.

Aurelius, I want you to talk to that grandson of yours!” exclaimed Selina Gunby.

“Which one?” mused Aurelius Gunby as though he didn’t know.

“That little Horace.”

Yes, that little Horace needed speaking to.

Cousins Horace Lawton Story and Eugene Gunby were best buddies. Eugene was a few years older than Horace, but because of Horace’s size and Eugene’s poor health, they seemed to be about the same age.

Eugene Gunby owned a cart pulled by a trained goat. He rode it everywhere he went and often invited Horace to ride with him. Every morning Horace hurried to finish breakfast and waited outside looking for the goat’s horns to peep up over the horizon. It was time to go to school. Horace was in the first grade.

The boys spent many happy-go-lucky days with Mr. Goat. Eugene had trained Mr. Goat to come, back up and standstill; Mr. Goat did all but attach himself to the harness and cart.  Mr. Goat and the two boys took leave and ventured out to the meadows and orchards. They made their rounds across the creeks and tormented the bee hives.

The Arimathea Methodist was located between Horace’s farm and Grandpa Aurelius’ farm, which gave the boys lots of room for adventure. Eugene lived on a farm “on down the road,” Uncle Edwin Gunby had a general store nearby, and Liberty Hill School was a hop skip and jump away. They made their rounds every chance they got, always stopping by Uncle Ed’s store for licorice and peppermint sticks.

While riding the countryside, the boys relived, with much exaggeration, the stories of great-great grandfather, Basil O’Neal.  Grandpa Basil  was known as the “world’s best marksman.” According to the boys, he won the Revolutionary War single handed and run “them British” back to where they come from.

But not all was fun, games and war stories. Eugene and Horace began to argue.

The Gunbys were a close knit family and strived to be there for one another. The boys were at odds and the whole family felt it. Grandmother Selina would not tolerate this situation any longer. It was time for Grandpa to speak to young Horace.

“Horace, let’s walk out to the orchard and check on the apples and peaches. Their blooms fell off a few weeks back. Let’s see if we are making fruit yet.”
“Sure Grandpa.”

As they walked about and checked the progress of the orchard, the old man decided to sit down. “Horace, come sit with me.”

“The apples will be in soon, won’t they Grandpa?”

“Oh yes, give it five or six more weeks, peaches a little later. That’ll be something you and Eugene can do with that goat and cart – gather apples.”

“Well, I don’t think that will happen Grandpa. I’m not playing with Eugene anymore. He’s selfish and I don’t want to have anything to do with him.”

“I see and why is that? I thought you two were best friends.”

“He won’t ever let me take the reins and lead Mr. Goat. I want to be in charge of where we go in the cart, just one time. And, I’m the one who gets us outta the creek when we get stuck!”

“He never lets you drive? Why not?”

“’Cause he’s selfish and always wants to tell me what to do, just ‘cause he’s older than me. I won’t tolerate it,” said young Horace as he sat up taller to appear bigger than his six years.

“But you enjoy riding in the cart and that beats walking back and forth to school. Think about that before school starts back. That’s a lot of walking,” said Aurelius, “but what really bothers me is the arguing you two are doing. I want you to think about this before you have more harsh words: A word once sent abroad…”

“…cannot be called back. I know, Grandpa, Horatio said that. But he didn’t have a cousin like Eugene!”

“Now let’s think about this for a moment. After you have ridden in the goat cart all you want, what do you do?” Before Horace could answer, Aurelius answered for him, “You jump out and go anywhere you want to go. I’ve seen you! You and those long legs can out run any of your cousins. You should be proud of that.”

“I am! And I can climb a tree quicker than all of ‘em too!”

Aurelius laughed and enjoyed his time with Horace. They decided to walk on and check on the blackberries. Sure enough, they were coming in too. Blackberry cobbler was going to be just as good as apple pie.

“Horace look at the blackberry blossoms! Thousands of them; looks like lots of pies to me!”

“Maybe millions Grandpa!”

Aurelius took Horace by the hand and said, “Steady me a bit, Horace, so I can walk through this rough terrain.”

“Sure Grandpa, lean on me.”

“You are a thoughtful young man Horace. Tell me, what do you do for Eugene when you two get out of the cart?”

“Well, you know…”

“I want to hear it from you Horace.”

Horace swallowed hard and whispered the words, “I hand him his crutches.”

“Why do you do that Horace?”

“Grandpa, you know.”

“Please, answer my question, ‘son.”

“I hand him his crutches, because he can’t walk.”

“Why can’t Eugene walk?”

The small boy took a deep breath and exhaled. “Because he had polio and his legs won’t work anymore.”

“And you are there to hand him his crutches. You two make a good team. I want you to think about that.”

“Grandpa, I don’t want to take his goat and cart away, I just want to guide it one time. I even asked to hold one rein while he holds the other, but no! He says – not yet,”  Horace explained as he fought back tears.

Were they tears of remorse or tears for his cousin’s condition? Aurelius thought maybe some of both.

“Perhaps Eugene wants to be able to do something that others can’t do. You know how you like being the fastest runner and best tree climber? Perhaps Eugene wants to have one thing he can do – that no one else can do.”

The two walked on together all the while, Aurelius holding on to Horace’s hand or shoulder. They studied the cloud formation and picked out pictures made by the clouds. As they headed back to the house Aurelius spoke of Eugene again.

“Now you can continue to ask Eugene if you can take the reins, but it is his decision to keep them or share them.”

“I know Grandpa. I will ask him again, but if he says ‘not yet,’ then I will not be mad at him. I won’t be mad at Eugene anymore.”

And Pierce Eugene Gunby never let go of the reins.

After polio left him a cripple, he moped around and did nothing for himself. His mother took matters into her own hands.

“Eugene, you can sit there and do nothing all day long,” She pointed to a patch of land where the family was cultivating a vegetable garden, “or you can get out there and help. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

“How Mother, how can I?”

“The good Lord gave you a brain, figure it out.”

Eugene trained a goat and then a horse. He whistled for the horse and it walked to him near the front porch. He was able to tie a low hanging pillow case around the horses’ neck, and used his upper body strength to climb up on the horse. He laid on his belly and hung over the side of the horse. They went to the garden and Eugene picked vegetables hanging upside down. He filled his pillow case. He did his share.

From that summer on, Eugene Gunby was in charge of his future. The horse and Mr. Goat became Eugene’s legs. There was nothing Eugene could not do on a horse. And what he could not do physically, he made up for it academically.

When ready for college, he applied at Berry, a college in North Georgia. The founder, Martha Berry explained that Berry College was a working college and she had doubts Eugene could handle it. She turned down his request.

Eugene did not give up. He made a deal with Martha Berry. Let him on campus and give him two weeks. If he could not keep up, he would leave. She gave him that chance, and that was all he needed. He excelled at Berry and graduated.

Martha Berry later stated in a newspaper article that Eugene Gunby was a perfect example of Berry’s motto: Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.

Eugene received a gift from (Coca Cola) Robert Woodruff; an Arabian stud named Katun.  Katun came from the Arabian line of Gazara and Nasr. Gazara and Nasr were the first Arabians known to grace the state of Georgia.

In 1974 one-hundred-eighty-five acres of pastures with barns and stables were dedicated to Eugene calling it the Gunby Equine Center, and on a gate within the center, the Eugene Gunby Center. This is how Berry College recognized Eugene Gunby’s concern for youth, for the handicapped, and for his deep love of horses.

Eugene became a Fulton County Circuit Court Judge, at first, riding a horse from courthouse to courthouse. Once Eugene Gunby took the reins, he never let up; not for Horace Story, not for Martha Berry, not for anyone. Eugene became actively involved in church work and served on the administrative board at Peachtree Road Methodist. He received the highest Masonry award of thirty-three degrees for his outstanding service of the Scottish Rite Masons. He served as president on the Atlanta Council of Boy Scouts of America and achieved the Silver Beaver Award. He served on the advisory board of Scottish Rite’s Hospital of Georgia and was a member of the YMCA executive committee.

Cousins Eugene and Horace remained best friends for life. It was the same every time they met. Before they departed, Horace asked, “Eugene, are you ready to let go of the reins yet?”

Eugene’s answer was always the same, “Not yet, Horace, not yet.”

 

 

 

Horace Lawton Story

Young Lawton Story turned over in his bed and buried himself deeper in the linen and quilts, hoping he was dreaming. But the knock on his door returned. He was not dreaming. It was time to wake up.

Life on the Story farm was a huge responsibility for an only son. At the time, Lawton had four sisters who stayed busy learning to sew and sing. The older two girls loved reading the family bible and poetry. All the girls were interested in making hats.

But as the oldest child, the hard work of the farm fell squarely on young Lawton’s shoulders. He dressed quickly in the dark and made his way through the hall and downstairs as quietly as possible. He was a thoughtful brother who did not want to wake his sisters. Downstairs in the kitchen, his mother, cut open hot biscuits and slipped a thick slice of good Lincolnton country ham in them, as she greeted him, “Good morning sleepy head!”

Lawton sat down and downed his breakfast. He had wasted a good part of the morning. It was almost five-thirty.

“Good morning son,” said Rad Story as he entered the room and poured himself another cup of hot coffee. “I’ve already fed the horses, couldn’t wait for you any longer. Better bundle up! It’s brutal out there; one of the coldest mornings yet.”

Lawton finished up breakfast quickly. It was time he headed out to the barn. An hour every morning before going to school, he twist corn.

“Son, if you don’t get with it, we won’t have enough corn seed to plant this spring. How many seed bags do we have now?”

“I’m working on the second one Papa,” answered Lawton.

“That’s not nearly enough. Go on out there and get started. I’ll help you if I can.”

“Thanks, Papa.”

Sallie Story wrapped four more biscuits for her young son to take to school for lunch. “Do like your Papa says and bundle up. It is cold out there.”

It was cold for this part of Georgia and the wind made howling sounds, not to mention, it was dark as night. And the sisters were still snuggled in their beds nice and warm. Truth be known, Lawton really enjoyed the company of his sisters and their reading and singing and creative sewing. Growing up in a household full of “women” made Lawton a natural socializer.

Young Lawton Story was no stranger to responsibility, even on Sundays. The Rad Story family belonged to the Arimathea Methodist. Young Lawton took care of the horses and buggies during the service. He stood by an open window of the church to hear the singing and preaching. Sometimes he watered and cared for as many as sixty horses during the worship service. Lawton loved the social world around and about Lincolnton.

And now here he sat in the dark barn, freezing cold, with a single lantern. He must have wondered, “What is wrong with this picture?” But he did not want to disappoint his father and so Lawton slipped off his gloves that his mother forced on him. No one could twist hard kernels of corn off the dried cob with gloves on.

Being a farmer in the 1890s was a tough job all year round. In the spring-time, it was cultivating the ground with plows harnessed by livestock; then came the planting. Summer-time was weeding and irrigating.  Late summer and fall was harvest time which brought in the fresh crops and started the job of drying, canning and curing. Winter-time was just as busy. It was the time to plow up the fields to make room for the next crop, and replace the seed supply. Without seed, there would be no spring-time planting.

Young Lawton would not let his father down. So, he twisted the corn until his callused hands almost bled.

“How’re you doing in here, son?” asked Rad as he slipped in between the barn doors.

“I’m alright, sir.”

Sallie and Rad Story

“Need some help?”

“Yes sir,” replied Lawton with a big smile on his face.

Rad Story seldom had time to help his son with the seed process, but this cold morning he made an exception.

“My hands are almost frozen!” said Rad Story as he rubbed his hands together. “This might warm my hands up, what do you think?”

“Maybe.”

“Okay, Lawton, throw me a few of those corn cobs, careful now.”

Lawton would one day grow up to be six feet and five inches tall, just like his father. This morning he was just a tall lanky kid not realizing his own strength. He carelessly threw a corn cob at his father too wild to catch. The cob hit his father’s frozen hand sending horrendous throbs of pain throughout his hand.

With that the tall stout father stood and turned Lawton’s backside around. Rad swatted his son a couple of times. Rad quickly regained his composure and said, “I’m sorry son, but it hurt so bad; I just had to whoop you a little.” Rad Story held his hand close to his chest and went round in circles until the throbbing stopped.

Lawton twisted the corn alone until school time. Lawton was not happy. Never in his life had his father laid a hand on him. But today on this cold and dark morning, Lawton had his first and only “whooping.” More than anything, his heart was broken.

Lawton did not do well at school that day. He did not want to socialize with his friends, not even his special friend, Nancy Bentley. Lawton had a lot of thinking to do. After school, he twisted corn for another hour. Then the tired lad went to bed right after supper. He did not even want to listen to his sisters read that night.

Nor could he sleep. The warmth of his mother’s quilts comforted him, but he could not relax enough to fall asleep. He was hurt, angry and most of all, he felt disconnected from the most important person in his whole life, his father. Yes, this little boy cried.

Then, he got to thinking. He would not be treated that way by his father. Nor would he work for him. Nor would he ever set eyes on him again. Papa could twist his own corn. Papa would be sorry.

Lawton had a plan.

Lawton would rise earlier than his father. That meant he had to get up before four o’clock in the morning. May as well call it night-time. May as well leave now, since it’s a long walk to the Thomson Train Station. Who knows? Maybe he’d get lucky and catch a ride on the back of some buckboard. He would quietly ease through the sleepy house and take a bag full of left over cornbread and biscuits. He would pour all of his hard earned coins into a sock and stuff it into his pocket. He would then set out for the train depot. He would not be here when Eugene and Mr. Goat stopped to pick him up in the goat cart; he would not go to school today. Eugene and Mr. Goat would have to go without him. He would catch a train to where ever and be gone before anyone could find him.

And that is exactly what he did, well maybe not exactly. Lawton did make it to the Thomson Train Station. All the biscuits and cornbread were gone by the time he got there. Just as he was about to purchase a ticket, he spotted the candy jars. Why not? So he purchased a piece of candy, then another, and another. Before long, Lawton was out of money and could not purchase a ticket to anywhere but here.

What was he to do?

Lawton sat down on an old church pew in the depot and stared into space. He watched the movement of the day as his eyes followed the sun up through the cracks of the wall. He knew his father was looking for him, and by now was frantic. Heck, not just his father. His sisters were out of bed, running around and screaming his name. As unpleasant as the situation was, the thoughts of his sisters out in the cold calling his name brought a little smile to his face. But he could not allow himself to think of his precious mother. Funny thing, he had not thought about what Mother would do when she realized her only son was missing. His heart broke as he fought back the bitter tears of regret. And when he thought of his cousin, Eugene, going to school without him, it made him sad. Who would help Eugene out of the cart and hand him his crutches?

Young Lawton sat on the pew. It had been a long day. He was tired and his feet hurt.

But what could he do now? He could not go home. And he still felt anger toward Papa.  He did not know what to do, so he did nothing. Young Lawton sat still as a mouse and hoped to disappear on that church pew in the train station. He sat there all day, and occasionally caught himself drifting into sleep. When awake, he followed the sun through the cracks in the wall as it made its way back down. It was about “eventide” now. Then he got a glimpse of something he would know anywhere, his father’s white stallion.

Lawton froze. His eyes followed the horse through the cracks in the train station wall as it made another circle, then another circle, and another. Twenty minutes passed and he continued to see the white horse circle the train depot, walking very slowly. Then the white horse stopped and did not circle again. Lawton sat there for as long as he could stand it, then stood to his feet. He knew that his father was waiting for him. And anyway, he had missed lunch and supper. It was time to face the music. It was time to face Papa.

Young Lawton slowly walked to the door and opened it. He mustered the courage to lift his head and look up. And there in front of him was his father, Rad Story, sitting atop his white stallion.

And for some reason, the young lad was not angry at his father anymore. In fact, Papa and his white horse was a “welcomed sight for sore eyes.”

Rad sat still and Lawton stood still for a few moments. Lawton knew he had to make the first move. He slowly approached the horse and stopped.

Rad Story made the next move.

“Son, are you ready to go home?”

“Yes, Papa,” whispered young Lawton.

Rad Story lifted himself up and sat down behind the saddle. He leaned down to offer his hand and said, “Here son, you sit here. It’ll be past your bedtime by the time we get home.”

Young Lawton took his father’s hand and was lifted atop the horse. With the movement of the withers, and the darkness of night for a blanket, young Lawton relaxed and lied against his Papa and fell asleep.

He awoke the next morning in his own bed. And he was allowed to sleep late, just this one time. Had the boy been awake last night when he arrived home, he would have known that it was Papa that held him in his arms like a newborn baby and carried him upstairs to bed. He would have known that his little sisters ran breathlessly and opened doors for Papa as they squelched their excited giggles. And that it was Mother who placed an extra quilt on her son as she kissed his head.

Many years later at my Aunt Sarah’s home on Morgan Road in Tucker Georgia, Lawton Story and his sisters, met for a long over due supper and fellowship. Four of his sisters were there. Theo had long since passed away and was buried in Decatur, Georgia along side her mother and Uncle Charlie.  They were all there in spirit for their names were mentioned often.

The elderly ladies were fascinated by the Story family crowd that showed up to greet them. They were proud of their big brother’s nine children and “so many little grands!”

PaPa Story’s sisters were Annie “Maude” (b.1888), Theodosia “Theo” (b.1892), Eddy Gaines (b.1893), Marion Pierce “Reesie” (b.1895) and baby Ruth Radford (b.1901) Story. It was there that my sister, Patricia, heard that Radford Gunn Story and Sallie Elizabeth Gunby-Story’s first born child was a son, stillborn. Their second child was Lawton, our grandfather, and then the five daughters.

The conversation went from the present Storys to the long gone Storys. The sisters laughed as they recalled their millinery shop in Lincolnton, and which sister was the most creative. My grandfather, now our “PaPa Story,” talked about how hard the work was on that Lincolnton farm. He could never get rid of all “those rocks.” He smiled often as he recalled the fun he had with his “little sisters.” He teased them about “getting to sleep late.”

“Oh sure, Lawton, six o’clock was late!” They teased back at their brother, and laughed the night away.

PaPa Story spoke with regret that with all the grandchildren he had, not one was named, “Sallie,” for his precious mother. And of course, they all recalled “Papa’s white horse.” And even Baby Ruth remembered Papa on the white horse, and she was but three years old when Rad Story met an untimely death.

But my grandfather, Lawton Story, Sr., was most touched and could not hide the tears in his eyes when he spoke of his kind and gentle father and the day he ran away from home. The sisters listened with compassion.

“I had nowhere to go since I spent my train ticket money on candy. I stayed there all day. About eventide, I saw Papa’s white horse walk slowly round and round the depot, and then it stopped. I knew Papa was waiting for me. I slowly gained courage to walk out of the train depot. When I looked up and saw Papa sitting atop that white stallion, my heart melted. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. Papa sat on his horse looking straight ahead, a perfect profile – looked like a portrait. I wanted to run up and cry out – I’m sorry Papa! Please take me home!”

Then PaPa Story looked about at all of his grandchildren and laughed with pure pleasure. He knew that whenever he mentioned the white horse, he had our attention. That’s when he would say, “And it was a beauty of a horse, a Saddlebred; a horse that could be ridden all day. Papa said that horse was so smooth, he could’ve been sitting on a comfortable chair. I wish you could’ve seen Rad Story sitting on that white stallion…”

Author’s Note:

The portrait of Sallie and Rad Story was damaged when Lawton Story’s young children poked their grandmother’s eye balls out with a pencil. My sister, Patricia Story-Logan, had the eyes replaced.

Horace Lawton Story was born in 1886 on the Mistletoe Farm owned by his grandfather, Henry Allen “Buck” Story. They later moved to a house that Rad Story built in Lincolnton. Both farms are now under water, Clarke’s Hill Lake sometimes called Strom Thurmond Lake. The Buck Story farm was also a part of what is now known as Mistletoe State Park.