I first met Larry
when his Mom and he began attending the same little Southern Baptist church
where we went. I don’t remember how we became friends it just happened. I was
about seven months older than Larry, and a grade ahead of him in school. We were
good friends all through school, actually more like brothers than friends.
Larry and his
family lived in an old farmhouse in the valley below our house. It was a
beautiful setting with a creek running right behind the house and lots of big
oak trees all around the property. It was about a quarter of a mile from my
The main road to
our area was known as Tunnel road. The name of the road was derived from a
railroad tunnel some miles up the track from where we lived. From
The road I lived
on branched off of Tunnel road, and ran up the hill for about a quarter of a
mile and dead-ended at the base of a big mountain. It was a dirt road, and had
no name, the area was known only as the Humphrey addition of Tunnel road. Mr.
Humphrey, who the community was named after, owned a large farm nearby.
Ward was probably
only about thirty-five or forty years old when I first met him. He was average
height, slim and very handsome. Even
as a kid I thought he looked a lot like Peter Lawford the actor. He never worked
a regular job, due to an injury he had suffered years earlier in a logging
accident, which had left him with a bad back. He did a lot of work around their
house, and other odd jobs around the neighborhood.
Ward was one of
my favorite people in the whole world, I loved going to the Troxel home, he was
always joking and pulling tricks on us. One
of his favorite tricks was one he used to play on my twin brothers. Ward would
say, “Pete and repeat were sitting on the fence, Pete fell off who was
left?” Well of course they would say, “repeat,” so he’d say it again
until they finally grew tired of the joke.
was named Wilda; she was a beautiful woman with bright red hair. The thing that
impressed me most about Wilda was her neatness, she always had the house
spotless, and she was always so clean and neat herself. I loved it when I was at
their house, and she’d ask me to stay and eat with them. She was a great cook,
and did all the cooking on an old wood cook stove.
Ward and Wilda seemed to be very happy together. Wilda had a great sense
of humor, and a ready laugh; she greatly appreciated Ward’s sense of humor,
and always joined right in with the jocularity.
When we were
about twelve years old Ward decided it was time for us to go Snipe hunting. None
of us had ever heard of a Snipe before so we didn’t know what he was talking
about. He told us that Snipes were small bird like creatures that ran around in
the woods at night, but couldn’t fly like a regular bird. They slept during
the day that’s why none of us had ever seen one before.
He knew everything there was to know about Snipes. Larry’s older
Finally the big
day came and my two brothers and I showed up at the appointed time with our tow
sacks in hand. Several other kids in the neighborhood were there for the Snipe
hunt also. It seems like there was about six of us all together. It was just
getting dark, which was the perfect time for Snipe hunting according to Ward. We
set off for the woods barely able to contain our excitement and soon we reached
our destination... a thickly wooded area up on a hill near the railroad tracks.
There he stationed us out some distance from each other. He showed each of us,
in great detail, how to hold our sacks. “Now don't make any noise he told us,
“Snipes are very smart, and any little noise will scare them off.” After
getting everyone positioned Ward and
It was really
getting dark by this time, and we were all wondering what was going on, when
suddenly we heard Ward calling to us. He wanted to know how many Snipes we’d
caught. We replied dishearteningly that no one had caught any Snipes. He said
that since the Snipes weren’t going to cooperate we might as well give it up
for the night. We all gathered together in the dark, and walked down the hill to
It wasn’t too
long after we got back to the house that Ward revealed to us that we’d been
snookered. We learned that Snipe hunting was just a joke... there really was no
such creature. He explained that every kid has to go Snipe hunting once in his
lifetime, and this was our time. We had been set up!
I remember one
day Ward asked us if we knew how to tell if a dog was part bear. Of course we
said no, so he goes over to their dog, pulls his tail up so you could see his
bare butt and says, “this dog is part bare.” He seemed to have a
never-ending supply of jokes.
My folks moved
Ward would sit
around and listen to me and my two brothers tell Larry about our adventures back
at “Mar creek” until he eventually put enough information together to
convince us that he had once lived there and had been the dog catcher at “Mar
We would start
talking about the swimming hole or some other place and he’d “Is that down
by the bridge just up the road from your Grandpa's house?” We’d look at him
with amazement and say, "Yeah, how did you know that?” He would answer,
“I told you I was the dog catcher at “Mar creek” for years.” He was just
teasing us of course, but we were never completely sure because he had so many
facts from listening to our stories that it seemed like maybe he really had been
the dogcatcher at “Mar creek.”
He was always
revealing something new to us. One day he showed us how to take a small round
rock, and hold it in the crook of our index finger, and by using the other index
finger, and putting pressure on the finger with the thumb we could shoot those
rocks out like a bullet. We practiced until soon we were quite accurate at short
distances. I've never met anyone else who knew how to shoot a rock like that. He
knew all kinds of neat things that we were impressed with.
Ward used to roll
his own cigarettes, and it was like an art form watching him do this. He was so
practiced at it that not a motion was wasted. I would sit mesmerized watching
him go through his routine. He did buy some cigarettes already rolled; his brand
was Lucky Strike. Every once in a while Larry would snitch a pack, and we would
go out in the woods by the creek, and smoke them.
Larry was real good at blowing smoke rings, but I never could get the
knack of it. I’ll never forget the first time Larry talked me into inhaling,
it felt as if someone had stuck a dagger down my throat and straight into my
lungs, but it got better after that, and soon I was inhaling every time; we
thought we were real men.
When I became a
teen-ager Ward was always there to talk to. He would tease us about girls and
stuff but he was also there with words of wisdom when we needed it. He was truly
interested in what was going on in our lives.
When I got out of
the navy I went back to
Before I moved so
far away I used to go back to
It’s been many years since I was that kid living up on Tunnel road, but I’ll never forget how much Ward Troxel meant to me; he was so important to my life. I am thankful for Ward and Wilda, and the memories they gave me. I know that no one is always happy, and I’m not naive enough to think that Ward was any different, but I do know that when I was around him he made me happy.