March 14, 2010

My Grandfather's walking stick


My cousin and her family stopped by the other night to see about getting a couple of wands. We discussed the particulars and visited for a while. They left with me promising to drop the wands off in a couple of days.

Once the wands were completed James and I stopped by to deliver them. She has been remodeling her house and showed me the work in progress. During the visit she disappeared through the front door saying, "I want to show you something..." When she returned she was holding an old stick, a piece of hickory. It looked vaguely familiar, yet I couldn't place it. She said, "You recognize it?" to which I told her no. She informed me that it belonged to Daddy Doc..

Daddy Doc was my grandfather.

H.C. 'Doc" Perry lived here on Doc Perry road for years. He and my grandmother created a haven for family and friends at the end of this mile long dead end road. He always had a walking stick of some kind on his front porch, and my cousin told me that my grandmother gave them this one after he passed away. Daddy Doc was always carving wood. Whenever you went to visit him he was sitting in his chair with his pocket knife in one hand and a piece of wood in the other. I never actually saw anything that he had made, yet he was constantly working on something.

She asked me if I could take the piece of hickory and do something with it. The walking stick was worn and frayed on the ends and had a few stains on it, but was in good over all shape. I brought it home and immediately went to work on it. Without thinking I tore into it and shaped the ends, drilled a hole for a wrist strap, and then set to work on putting a face on it. I didn't put any stain on the stick, wanting it to retain its original look, yet I did varnish it to bring out the color of the wood and bark, and protect it from any damage.

Once the hickory stick was completed and dried I ran the leather strap through it and then took a good long look at it. As I sat there turning it over in my hands staring at its shape and feeling the weight of it in my hands my mind ran back in time to all the memories of the man.

The day after I picked the walking stick up from my cousin and delivered her wands, we all went over to another cousin's house for haircuts. While there, a couple more relatives came in... I sat and listened as they talked about relatives from long ago, and I learned a few things...

As a child we would often come out here during the summer to spend the weekend at the "cabin". The cabin was a small four room cottage with a fireplace and no running water set way out in the woods. I never thought anything about it, it was just a place where we cooked out and shot guns and played games. As my cousin was getting her hair done she asked if it was still there. "Pieces of it are... " I told her.. I haven't walked over there for quite some time. She began to tell me that Uncle Walt and his wife lived there years ago for a few months at a time and that they were traveling folk that worked for the circus. I sat and listened as she began to spin tales of the oddities that formulated the lives of my distant relatives in and around Newnan ( back then there just weren't that many ladies that had tattoos..).

Last night we went over to my nieces place for a cook out. During the cookout I began asking my older brother about all this. "Circus workers? They were carnies man... Uncle Walt was covered up with tattoos.. well, they both were.. He always had boxes of trinkets like little plastic footballs and junk that he would get from the fair and travel around during football season, when he wasn't running the carousel at the fair, selling to all the people in the crowds at college games..." There was a guy there that had gone to school with my brother and was unfamiliar with the family, so my brother fell into many old tales.

He told the guy about how my grandfather and his father would work all week making liquor down at their place on the river. Then on Fridays they would load up their wagon and make the day long drive up to Newnan. Just south of the court square, there was an entire block that was known as the stables.. Where all the people that came to town would tie up their horses and leave their wagons while they did their business in town. Currently Shapiro's photography sits there along with a few other businesses...

He talked about how my grandfather would tell him about camping at the stables over night on Fridays with a wagon load of corn liquor covered up with hickory knots they would sell to the folks in town. "He said the people would drink all night and play poker and there was always a few fights..." Everyone had a wood box out back of their places of business and when Saturday morning rolled around my Grandfather and great Grandfather would go around and deliver the 'wood'. They would remove the empty moonshine bottles from the wood boxes and replace them with full bottles and promptly cover them with hickory, placing the empty bottles in burlap bags they carried.

This made me think of a talk I had with my grandfather once.. It was right after the movie Murder in Coweta County aired on television... The movie was about the "angelic" sheriff of the county we live in going after the ruthless bootlegger from the next county that dared to kill a man just over the county line... I asked Daddy Doc about it and he said, "Lamar Potts just saw an opening to take out his liquor competition... and he took advantage of it... Don't ever trust a sheriff.." I always wondered about the look in his eyes when he said that.. Now I wonder what stories about my family's checkered past I have really missed out on.. I'm sure there are a few good ones that I would love to have heard... A family of moonshiners, carnies, mediums, artists, preachers.... at least I come by it honestly...

Tomorrow I will drop off the walking stick. I hope they like what I have done to it and treasure it for its history... lord knows I will...

4 comments:

Matt-Man said...

It's nice that there is so much family around you. Being the youngest of nine I missed out on alot of family stories and events. I hope everyone apprecites the stick. Cheers Clay!!

Cat said...

Your family is WAY cooler than my family. Weirder, yes, but also cooler.

Deb said...

That has to be an interesting "dining room table talk"! Although that life must be hard, it must also be artistically fulfilling as well. It's what great movies are made up from!

Kayla said...

This makes me smile! I remember having a conversation with my grandfather to where he said to me that his father never did anything wrong in his life. Guess a letter I seen after he passed, Daddy Doc that is, wrote to granny by another someone in law enforcement makes more sense now. Good Ol' Daddy Doc...who would've thought!


As for the walking stick, it's beautiful! Thank you for working a little more Perry charm to it!!!