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Smoke School Stories
My Daddy- The Life and Times of George Wesley Whitlow
Yet another smoke school story
Some of us are getting to a time in our lives when we are loosing or have already lost our parents. I lost my momma back in April 2005. I am looking at some of her furniture here in this office / house I now live in beside a soybean field and a graveyard on the edge of Washington Indiana. I think I may fall in love with this old run down shack of a farm house. Right now, the circuit breaker trips when you turn on the lights and the computers. I had to find the toilet paper in the dark a while ago- now that was a trip. But I can wake up about 5 in the morning and go sit on my porch under these thousand year old oak trees and look out across the bean-field. The house stays in the shade all day long. Sit out on the porch and drink about a thousand cups of coffee and listen to the birds sing. Hope and Cindy answering the phone that never seems to stop ringing, thank you all very much. I just love to hear that phone ring. Heather asleep to noon in the small bedroom, very peaceful- I do love that girl- my own daughter. I wonder what she thinks of me. I wonder if she will miss me when I am gone as much as I miss my daddy.
I met the man who owns the soybean field the other day. I bet they got huge 30 point bucks along the edge of that field. I bet they have huge green droppings. Sure would love to see one in my scope. I honestly would just love to see one. The man who owns the bean field is the judge here. I asked him if I could hunt back there and he said no. I took the time to tell him a few stories and- well- I think he will come around. Basically, I am a good person- most of the time. Well some of the time. The Judge huh- Well forget trespassing. He told me he has a pig roast every summer and I should come to that. It took me back in time, back to 1983 when I finally made a break from the US Air Force to move back home to Columbia Louisiana. Actually Clarks Louisiana a suburb if you want to call it that. Clarks was an old sawmill town where the Clarks Lumber Company owned the whole dam town. I owe my sole to the company store. My grandfather Roddy White was a mule skinner at first for the company. He gambled and won, ended up buying the entire town of Clarks which he sold board by board. He sold the commissary and the dormitory to the Catholic Church and they ran an orphanage in there for years. I used to skip school play hooky, drive my ole 57 Chevy past the levee about 30 miles to the old sawmill pond and fish. The nuns would bring the children on hikes down by the sawmill pond. They all envied me out there skipping school, laying in the bottom of a aluminum John boat- fast asleep and fishing at the same time. No wonder I was in the 5th grade 4 times.
My daddy and I built a party boat back when I was 11. We built it out of old scrap cypress lumber that had sank from back when they floated the giant cypress trees on the pond. We went to the saw mill and made boards. We build the boat on 6 old garbage cans, 55 gallon barrels. It must have looked kinda like Noah's ark. But she floated and would easily hold 8 fat people. She did not have a motor, but we had a 10-foot pole. My last girlfriend was so ugly, that she had marks on her where people had been touching her with 10-foot poles. We would take that 10-foot pole and shove that party boat right there amounst some willow tree branches into a bed of small brim- about the size of your little finger. We would catch about 700 in about an hour. Daddy would crank up a propane burner and dam near half the town would show up. Even ole Slim Hodges would show up and he was the high sheriff of Caldwell Parish. I simply loved Slim. The conversations were just a flowing just about as fast as you could eat a 2 inch brim. Don't you just love peeling off the meat off those sharp bones. Who would a thunk that those family fish fries on a sawmill pond would eventually lead to me cooking catfish for smoke school. It is the eating, the company, and the stories that people love.
Daddy was one hell of a storyteller. He always had a story- did not matter if it was on the mill pond, in the deer woods where we camped and built camp fires, at the second hand store they ran, or on the baseball field where he was the coach, or on the street where he walked a beat as a cop. He had a story for anyone who took the time to listen. Some of his best stories were back when he owned a bar. It was the Midway Bar and it was midway between Clarks and Grayson Louisiana- out in the woods. My grandfather build the bar way back in 1933. One day he took me down in the basement that had a dirt floor. He told me to look up at the cracks in the floor of the bar above our heads. He said he built that floor with the cracks wide enough so quarters could fall through the cracks if they fell out of the men's pockets who were playing the slot machines. Roddy buried his money in the dirt in the basement of that floor. He kept only silver dollars and he buried them in galvanized milk buckets. When he died i tried to go dig them up- but someone beat me to it.
Daddy loved to entertain at the bar. He would stand there in his apron and tell stories. He would have huge pig roasts and the entire parish would show up. He had a cookout once a week every Saturday night. The food and the stories were free. I reckon he was about the best man I have ever known. He was totally honest. He loved to laugh and I seen him cry a time or two. He and momma started taking me hunting and fishing all the time when I was knee high to a grasshopper. I think I was 2, I remember some of the earlier trips and I remember I was still in training pants.
I remember places like Clear Lake, where we camped out in tents with mosquito nets- like I had a farm in Africa. Now that was a good movie. I love Merrill Steep. She can have me, if she wants me. I remember running in my training pants on a horse daddy made out of a fishing cane. I stopped long enough to watch daddy cast his fly rod at some brim and perch. I heard that popping bug pop the air and saw the line sail out. I thought- well I can do that. So I picked up a cane pole, held the worm and hook in my right hand and with my left hand cast the line out towards the muddy water of Clear Lake. Like my later adventures with fire crackers, I forgot to let go of the fishing hook. The hook went all the way through my right thumb and stuck in my thumbnail. It was 30 screaming miles from Clear Lake to the emergency room at Wright Bendal Clinic on the Ouachita River on Monroe. It took my daddy and nine nurses to hold me down while Doctor Bendal cut out that fishing hook. I guess I will never forget it.
Like Will Rogers, Daddy never met a man he did not like. Everybody loved Daddy. He was a good father- the best I ever had. He disciplined me just right. When I needed it, he would take out an old weeping willow limb. But he never took out his anger at me. He quit spanking me when I was 16, played tackle for the football team, and retaliated. I guess I took him off balance. He fell over the recliner. He got up, dusted off his police uniform, and said, "I guess I want do that again." Then he walked out the door and cranked up his Harley and went back to work. He was a cop.
I guess the maddest he ever got was the first time I wrecked the 57 Chevy. Up until then the green and yellow mobile was his car. I just made 15 and got my drivers license. I dearly loved a cute skinny blonde chick across the street, Patricia Parker. Her daddy, Junior owned a Tom's Toasted Peanut Truck and ever once in a wile he would give me some free samples. Sometimes he would take me hawk hunting. We would drive along the road spotting chicken hawks on tree limbs. Junior would take out his 30-06 and scope in the hawks. I swear he shot one at 500 yards, swear on a stack of Bibles. Patricia had this hair the same color as a cotton ball. It was soft and she had a mouth just full of pearly whites. She was 13 and she did not have a license. She never did love me back. She said we are just good friends, kinda like a brother- like Jenny and Forrest Gump. Sometimes life really is like a box of chocolates.
Patricia convinced me to take her on a drive the first week daddy let me drive
the Chevy. We drove to Ruston and passed in front of Louisiana Tech where Terry
Bradshaw was playing football a few years later. We were driving down the gravel
road that passed in front of the Louisiana Tech Baseball Stadium and Patricia
asked me is she could drive. I said, "Sweetheart, You don't have a license." I
let her drive anyways, and she proceeded to hit a parked car in front of the
stadium. I panicked, got out and looked at the car. "Daddy will kill me."
Patricia said, "Run Forrest Run." I did, I peeled rubber and gravel and got the heck out of that baseball field. I still think of Patricia all the time. She was one of the first women I know who died of breast cancer- she was 35 and she had 3 children with white cotton hair. Sometimes you just cant find enough rocks.
When I pulled the Chevy back into the driveway by the railroad track on Nichols Street in Monroe, my dear old daddy had a conniption fit. "What did you do to my car?"
"Daddy I hit a tree and I was driving." I lied.
"Dam", he said, "A tree with red paint. " He was so mad, he just held it in and walked away. Went inside and brooded. Twenty years later, he let me know that he had called the Sheriff in Lincoln Parish and took care of the tree/ red station wagon we ran into at Louisiana Tech.
One of the last times I saw my daddy, we were sitting in Francis's Restaurant in Columbia Louisiana. It was the only restaurant. It was the place where everyone goes and everyone knows everyone. Since I had been living in Baton Rouge working for the Louisiana DEQ for several years; I had lost track of many people in Columbia. I did not know the lady who came and sit at the table with us. Daddy was working on a T-Bone Steak rare and pink, his favorite food. The lady sat down and spilled out her heart about how bad and rotten her son was. Daddy just sat there and kept chewing. Just listened to her ramble. When she finished, he wiped his beard and said ,"I guess you ought to kill him."
There are so many memories. I wish I could make good memories for Heather. The fishing trips, the hunting trips. Watching Matt Dillon and Chester on Gun Smoke. "Mister Dillon!" I had the hots for Miss Kittie. I guess my favorite memory was the baseball. Daddy coached Little League baseball for 20 years. I was the pitcher. I struck em all out. Left handed-side armed. Daddy on the door of the dugout chewing Red Man. Then there was the football practice in high school. Daddy also umpired high school football all over north Louisiana, so he never got to see me play. But he came to practice every day. He parked his police car at the end of the practice field and watched us. He loved football and baseball. He was a great player. They called him the Cotton Valley Flash. He wanted to be pro, but the Marine Corp and WW2 ended that. He was wounded in the knee. Otherwise he would have been the catcher for the St Louis Cardinals or the Center for the Houston Colts. And now, Indianapolis is the Colts and my daddy is in the Gardens of Memory beside my momma in Minden Louisiana where the entire town once called him the Cotton Valley Flash.
Daddy and momma lived out in the woods. We went deer hunting in the back yard. I can still hear them Walker Dogs coming fast right to us. How exciting the chase of the deer. Daddy and momma ran the junk store, They had Tee shirts that said, We buy Junk and We sell antiques. The store was in the old one room school house and is still standing there in Clarks. The store was the center of commerce in Clarks, about the only commerce. Folks came from miles around to shop, eat potluck lunches, sit by the fire, and listen to daddy's stories. It was the Wall-mart, JC Pennies, the Mall, and the Town Hall. What they could not sell in the store, they took to flea markets in Canton Texas, Natchez Mississippi, or Arcadia Louisiana where they shot Bonnie and Clyde. They traveled in an old rusty Toyota truck and trailer with piles of old furniture and junk and looked exactly like the Beverly Hillbillies.
Momma was loading up to Toyota with
February her hired hand. Daddy said he did not feel good and would skip the flea
market in Arcadia at the Bonnie and Clyde Trade Days. Daddy said he was going to
walk over to his wood shop where he loved to tinker. Momma was backing up out of
the drive onto the gravel road. Daddy was walking across the porch when he fell.
His heart just gave out. Momma screamed and cried for days- for years.
The funeral was huge. There were actually 2 services- one in Columbia and one in Minden. Daddy also taught Law Enforcement at the LSU Law Enforcement Institute. Every Cop in Louisiana had been to one of his classes. He had more friends than Carter had liver pills. He got a 21 gun salute and momma got a flag. After the funeral, I went out in the woods and I cried.
My daddy, George Wesley Whitlow, the Cotton Valley Flash- The Safety Crusader for the Monroe Louisiana Police Department MPD Daddy is the second man on your left. That was not too long after he got back from his Marine Corp Hitch in WW2. All you antique car fans, I think this is a 1952 Oldsmobile. I would have been four years old then. I had a picture around here of Daddy's Safety Crusader Model T. I remember that car. It was so hot one day that Daddy broke an egg on the running board and it fried.
I hope you enjoyed my little trip though time and about my daddy- whom I miss every day. If you enjoyed my story, then check out the rest
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