We lived across the pond from my maternal grandparents when I was growing up in rural Alabama. No, not that pond (wink, wink)…the pond in Papa Findley’s pasture!
I’ve got a lot of stories to tell about Papa. He was Mr. Woodrow Wilson Findley, named after President Wilson, and people sometimes called him W.W. This moniker solidified his image as a driven business man.
He started selling magazines as a boy. When he grew up, he built the store at Gihon Springs. He later built one in Huckabee for Gramma to run, and it had the same facade as the one in Gihon Springs (but it was called something different). Papa also raised cattle, sold cars, and he built a motel and store in Gulf Shores. (More about the motel, later. You’ll be interested in hearing about it.)
Papa would go around talking with a thick cigar dangling from the corner of his mouth. Until he was well into his seventies, he always seemed to have some pipe or other smoke, which, of course, was largely responsible for his eventual demise. Papa spoke with a booming voice, and he was always ready with some tale. He was well-liked, and his sense of humor was partly responsible.
Because Papa died more than twenty years before my daughter’s birth, I like to tell her one of Papa’s funniest stories. Papa always said that this story was true:
When Papa was a little boy growing up on the family farm in Gihon Springs, he once got into serious trouble with his father, Granddaddy Ellis. (For the record, I’m sure that this was one of many, many times he got in trouble.)
Papa Findley was running away from Granddaddy Ellis to avoid a “Whoopin.'”
Round and round the house they went, scattering chickens and leaping over Otherma’s flower beds. (Otherma was Papa’s mother.) They circled the well and dashed past grazing cattle. Finally, Papa ran under an empty clothesline in the yard. Through the kindness of his heart, he yelled back to Granddaddy, “DUCK!”
Apparently, not hearing Papa, Granddaddy followed him under the clothesline at a dead run. That clothes line caught Granddaddy under the neck and flung him backwards about ten feet, according to legend.
That made Granddaddy Ellis even madder. When he finally caught up with Papa, he gave him the “whoopin'” of Papa’s life.
Papa looked up at Granddaddy and cried a teary, “Well I tole ya to duck!”