I have always loved that aspect of Facebook that allows us to reconnect with our past, to find long-lost friends and family. Earlier this year, I received a ‘friend request’ from a high school friend I had not seen or spoken to in many years. As we’ve played catch-up these past few months, we’ve shared news, both past and present.
Today, he happened to mention my Dad in one of his online posts, immediately triggering my curiosity. The end result was an email sharing a story which I had never heard before but will forever cherish. What I wouldn’t give to see Daddy smile one more time.
Please read Leslie Roussell’s recollection of meeting my dad, Charles Ray Williams. I am thankful Leslie shared the story with me, made even more enticing by his intriguing use of the English language.
Let me first say that I have many stories about my youth and Bogalusa. You are among the fondest of my memories. I have not sat down to write this episode, but I will recap my memory of meeting Charles Ray.
As I sat on the second floor balcony porch swing, overlooking the shopyards and the GM&O railyard, I noticed a fit, thin man with silver-rimmed sunglasses and a brown plaid short-sleeved shirt get out of a Southern Bell service truck and sit on the tailgate of that truck. One leg dangled as he bent the other at the knee and began to strap some sort of iron brace to his khaki pants leg. The other leg. Then he bent at the waist to stoop down and secure the little stirrup part with the lower leather straps…I immediately thought of Polio…naw…he was walking around his truck before…maybe…naw…
I saw his head raise up as he stood to gauge the height of the telephone pole. He caught my stare as he looked around and I felt a little shy for being caught staring…Big heavy strap swung around the wooden spire and I watched as he attached the free end to his belt. So THAT’s it! That’s how these guys shimmy up that pole and fix things! I just gotta get a pair of those! I was amazed to see him firmly plant his boot arch into the side of the pole, as the sharp steel held his foot fast…So THAT’s how those poles wind up with so many burrs and notches! I mean it. I gotta get a pair! Maybe I can make some…I watched as he worked, climbed back down, and drove off down Cumberland road.
I watched for him for weeks…
Early on a summer’s morning, I greeted Percola in the bakery shop as she reported to work. I remember I had on little khaki shorts and a tee shirt – no shoes…and I used to love to grab onto the cash register stand to support myself with my arms extended and my knees folded under me as I just hung there and whistled.
Suddenly the screen door to the shop opened. I couldn’t see cause my back was to the door – about 12 feet or so. I craned my head back to get a better look and that was just enough unbalanced weight to cause the heavy table and the cash register to begin to arc, to fall and trap (smash) my body. Your Dad ran and grabbed the register which cut into his forearm, but he held it until I was able to clear myself by rolling. When CR (Charles Ray) saw that I was clear, he let the unit fall to the floor and money exploded from the drawer. My mother dressed his wound in the kitchen and I was just in awe of the guy who could climb, lift mountains, and smile.