You may know John Willis best for his transportation experience and supply chain expertise, but he is also an accomplished writer! We are excited to start featuring some excerpts of his work here and show you another side of Maverick’s resident 3PL Rock Star.
John took the time today to explain some of the meaning and inspiration behind his written stories:
“About a year ago I was inspired by the writings of a Southern writer, Sean Dietrich, and began putting pen to paper to capture the joys of living in a small Southern town. My wife and I moved to Pine Mountain Georgia about 30 years ago and have raised all four of our children in this special place that bears a strong resemblance to Mayberry on the Andy Griffith show of years past. It is my hope and prayer that you can enjoy these musings about the characters and places and events that weave together as threads to make up the fabric of living here. It has been a blessing to be one of the roughly one thousand people that call this community home. I also hope and pray that wherever you are the living is just as good.”
Featured Story: “Walter”
Small church in a small town. Kids were singing so we borrowed risers, or staging, for them to stand on. Otherwise they were hard to see, especially the really little ones. Owner of the local hardware store asked me to look at the risers after the service. He was the chairman for property maintenance. I am young at the time. Maybe, probably, a touch arrogant. Enough I am wondering why the old, bald man in the 1970’s polyester suit is a part of our conversation. Glasses and a very earnest manner. I am introduced to Walter and kind of don’t pay much attention to him after that. The chair wants to build our own risers. Won’t have to borrow anymore. He knows I have done some welding. I agree to help and get together on materials.
Couple days later I get called to help unload the church’s new risers. The ones you could drive your truck or maybe a tractor up on and change the oil. Nice cuts, good welding, just an overall quality fabrication job. You see it coming, Walter had gone home and built them in his back yard. He moves up several notches in my world.
By a few years later he is one of my heroes. In his mid 70’s at this point. It’s a beautiful fall Saturday morning and we are working together on a home next door to the church that was purchased to become the office. A paneled over chimney is discovered and we are removing it, brick by brick with sledge hammers. No easy way to do this and as we slog through the task he matches me blow for blow while telling me how chimneys are built, the tricks and craftsmanship to making them draw correctly. We started early and by almost noon it is down below floor level. Walter looks at me and says, “John, my wife puts dinner on the table at noon and if I am not there I don’t eat.” I thank God for his wife and her schedule, because I am more than ready to quit, despite being spotted 40 years by him.
Walter stays married to this woman for six decades. No children but lots of people who were influenced by them through their Sunday school teaching, youth work, and quiet witness of lives well-lived. She passed, he re-married a childhood friend in the same situation and enjoyed a few years of mutual happiness before losing her as well. I told him he needed to be playing the lottery. I have many friends with multiple notches on their marriage stick who never found the happiness he did, twice. Not that life was always easy, he earned his spot in the Greatest Generation serving on the battlefields of Europe. Witnessed atrocities never conceived while growing up in LaGrange Georgia. Gave my oldest son a helmet from a German soldier, promised him he would dance at his wedding someday.
He is now 91, nearly blind, getting around with a walker, and still twice the man I am. Took a fall the other day and banged up his face pretty bad. I stopped by to see him and he told me, “My daddy always said to use my head, but using it to bust up concrete is not working out too well.”
I am going to lose him, one day, probably sooner than later. When it happens I will cry like a baby. My son should probably go ahead and get married if he wants Walter to fulfill his promise. I have told a lot of people if I can grow up to be half the man he is, I will consider my life a success. Walter’s life has already been one.
So thanks old man, for showing a young buck what a real man looks like; trifocals, polyester, and all.
And, from the bottom of my heart, for being a part of my life. I love you.
This story was originally published on April 7, 2017. For free access to this and other stories by John Willis, click here to visit his website.