By Beulah S. Fox © 1988
Issue: October, 1988
My father was Wiley Hicks Stowers (1891–1955).
If someone were to ask me what things I remember most about my father I would say his honesty, integrity, and generosity.
I was the oldest of eight children and I would go with him to deliver produce. We'd get up about three in the morning and leave home to go to Bluefield, Virginia and West Virginia to deliver produce, which had been loaded the night before on a spring wagon.
When we arrived Daddy would stop the wagon half way up the hollow and the customers would come running. He'd fill a bushel basket to the top and then keep filling until its contents ran over, saying the bible always said to give good measure and running over.
He was a Christian who lived the Bible every day of the week, having been church school superintendent for twenty seven years. Each Christmas, somehow, he managed to treat each child with candies and oranges, paying for them himself.
Since I was the oldest I helped him hang gates, dig post holes, and mend fences. When spring came he turned the sod and made even rows in the fresh sod.
Later my sister, brother and I hoed corn. He'd tell us, "Try to keep up with the plow." Hicks got the shortest row, Ruth got the next shortest and I got the longest row, according to the age and ability. These lessons and others have stayed with me.
Memories leapfrog through my mind now as I gaze at his dinner pail with a wire handle and a tin cup that fits on top.
At noon Mother would bring it to the field. It had biscuits and vegetables in the bottom, fried apple pies in the tray, along with a gallon of milk, cold from the spring in a White House Vinegar jar. We ate beneath the poplar trees scattered with yellow tulips that cast lacy shadows in the corner of the rail fence. For a while we were free to talk while muscles relaxed, to dream of going swimming, fishing, playing house, or exploring the cave.
He knew where the biggest blackberries grew and would show us where to find them. Two of the things he didn't like were canned tomatoes and corn bread. He loved custard pies. I still remember the recipe: 1 pint rich milk, 2 eggs, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of lemon flavoring poured into a half baked crust and baked in a hot oven.
One crisp fall morning, I went with my father to the back field in the edge of the mountain to shuck corn. He had made me a little corn shucker that fit my hand. I was trying to work fast so my fingers would keep warm, when on the other side of the shock I heard a noise. A mother deer was eating corn. I wondered how we would gain if we worked and the deer ate. I thought we might gain some since there was two of us and only one deer.
Daddy saw the deer and said, "Be quiet, let her eat." After she ate a while she walked away.
On rainy days he'd work in the shop. Always he'd say, "Put things where you found them." He remembered exactly how the tools were laying, if pointed in one direction he expected them to point in the same direction.
Daddy had a different sense of humor from most people. He was building a rock foundation for our porch. While doing this he found a rock on the farm with a lump sticking outward, calling it a pregnant rock. Today the rock is still cemented in the foundation reminding me of him.
He did his own carpenter work and always said you could cover a multitude of sins with corner round, meaning if something didn't exactly fit you could remedy it. A real problem existed that he never really overcame. If there was something in the road he was sure to hit it. It didn't matter so much when he was driving a team of horses because Maud and Nell were skillful in dodging the bumps and holes in the road. One day Daddy went to Bland and bought a car. We saw the dealer and him go up the road, the dealer was driving. After a few minutes the car came down the road and Daddy was driving. This was the only lesson he ever had, about a half miles worth.
Being accustomed to working with horses he didn't realize he had the engine power of many horses at his fingertips. He'd talk to the air like he was talking to a team of horses.
It was awhile before any of the family would ride with him. Then one day he loaded us into the car and we were on our way to church. We children didn't help any. When another car was approaching Bud would say, "Hit him and run Daddy, hit him and run." He was the youngest at the time and had been used to playing with toy cars and bumping them together. Hicks would say, "Put the bridle on him." Another would say, "Can't you slow down?" while another would say, "Can't you go faster than that?" In the winter the road was frozen into deep ruts, mud holes in wet weather and clouds of dust when it was dry. Somehow he managed, having only one wreck on a foggy morning.
These things speak softly of a part of my life. I'm glad I had him for a Dad, for he surely left a lot of tracks.