We often look for excuses to do things we want to do, rather than doing things we need to do. Well, I am speaking for myself. Maybe you don’t do this. The other day I was faced with a situation where I needed to get some things out of a warehouse, but the warehouse folks were not in and I had forgotten my code to get through the gate. I made a call and left a message that I needed some help getting into the facility.
In the meantime, I decided I would “search for Truman Waters.” It had been many years since I had seen him, at least 35 years. My brother told me if I could find a certain church, I could find his house, because Truman Waters lived right across the road. I found the address and put it into my phone. I would need to do this if I were going three or four blocks in my own neighborhood, it’s just one of those things that I have to do.
My mapping gizmo said that it would take about 30 minutes to get to the church I was looking for somewhere in or around rural Randolph or Cleburne County. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out which county I was in – it didn’t matter. I wanted to see if I could find Truman Waters.
My Papa always took me places and we had more fun just getting there (or not) than we did when we actually got there. There’s a lot to be said for enjoying the journey. Going through rural Alabama, you always pass a lot of small churches with some of the best messages on their church signs. You know the ones with slide-in letters.
The best one that caught my eye was one that said, “You catch’em. I’ll clean’em. – God.” It was some sort of Methodist church, I liked it.
I went from the interstate, to the state road, then on to the county roads. Kudzu covered the trees along the roadway. There were fellows out cutting their lawns and working in their gardens. There were American Flags, Confederate Flags and clothes hanging out to dry. Honestly, it was all beautiful and I was enjoying my journey.
Finding the little church, I was very happy. I pulled in and studied it and then moved on to the graveyard. I love graveyards, but I’m not sure that I really want anyone to come see me in one.
Noticing one gravesite was rather recent, I decided to take a look at it. From a distance, I could tell there was a fish, possibly a largemouth bass at the top of the marker. When I got closer, I could tell the lady had been buried less than a month ago. Below the birth and death dates was the phrase, “Finally Gone Fishing.” I smiled and said, “Yes, you have.”
Easing out of the church parking lot, I saw a fellow sitting in a porch swing on the front porch of the house across from the church. I pulled into the driveway and parked under a tree.
Walking toward the porch, I asked the man, “Are you Truman Waters.” He said, “Yes, I am.” I said, “I’ve been searching for you.” He said, “Well, you found me.” His wife was either sitting on the porch, or came out when she heard him talking to me, but they invited me to come sit on the porch and talk for a while.
Of course, I did.
You see, a lot of folks have searched for Truman Waters over the years, for different reasons. Most folks want to either hear or write about his heroics in World War II. That involved being searched for by Germans when the B-17 he was a gunner on was shot down in February of 1944. The German folks found him and he spent a spell in a Nazi prison camp which was not much of a vacation. This wasn’t why I was searching for Truman Waters though. He did give me a signed copy of his book before I left though. The title of his book is, “No Thought for Tomorrow.” It tells a story that everyone should hear (and appreciate).
He signed his name and noted, “To one of favorite cousins.” That’s why I was looking for Truman Waters, he’s my cousin, or was my Daddy’s cousin, whatever the appropriate name for such relationships is.
You can tell your people when you see them, as a matter of fact, I think I was looking at myself, if I make it to 96 years old. At 96, Truman was as sharp and candid about life as a 30 year-old. It was a pleasure.
I simply wanted to ask him about my Daddy, the uncle I never knew who was killed in World War II and my Daddy’s father who I never knew. He shot straight and he was honest, as I wanted him to be.
Another younger fellow from down the road stopped by to take him and his wife to lunch, so we had a great conversation.
As I suspected my family tree is filled with sharecroppers, bootleggers, liars, lazy folks, hard workers and war heroes. Looking across his yard, he had the most beautiful trees, some much older than him. They had names on them, white signs with names in black. He had named one after his aunt, one after his mother, one after his wife and even one after himself.
It was all beautiful; searching for Truman Waters, seeing the kudzu, the named trees, the church signs, hearing the stories and finding/seeing myself in 40 years if I’m lucky enough.
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