EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s column brings Part II of Janyce Winter Westerman’s moving tribute to her father, longtime teacher Ted Winter.]Daddy’s story would not be complete without telling about some of his “creative” basketball strategies. Once, when playing a formidable team, Daddy told his players to freeze the ball for three quarters after gaining the advantage by 5 or 6 points. (During those days, the ball could be frozen indefinitely.) The opposing team refused to foul or to try to get the ball. Parrottsville won.
When I was playing basketball, we once faced our greatest rival—Newport High School. Their team had won state championships and their high-scoring forward, Emily Williams, had a 40-point scoring average. Knowing that we could not beat them, Daddy placed two guards on Emily. I was in front and Betty Jo Cureton was behind. He threatened to bench us if we failed to hold our stance. “We can’t beat them, but we can lower Emily’s scoring average,” he reasoned. Emily scored 12 points, and we lost by only 12 points. If we had not stopped Emily, we would probably have lost by 30 points.
Daddy loved his Parrottsville students and spent nineteen years at the school. His students adored and respected him, even when he spanked them, which was often. Some students even considered his spankings as a badge of honor. (My daughter Whitney has his “strap,” which, of course, he never used on her.)
In his 80s he was asked to serve as grand marshal for the Parrottsville July 4th parade and was honored to comply. Years after he had passed away and the school was no longer standing, the Parrottsville City Council named the volleyball and basketball park after Daddy--The Ted Winter Park.
In 1959 Daddy was sent from Parrottsville to a two-room school. This move turned out to be a blessing because his busy life left little time for himself and his family. He, however, applied and was hired for a job in Georgia. He planned to live there and come home on weekends. Fate stepped in when Cocke County High’s principal offered him a job. Daddy accepted and taught at CCHS for 20 happy years. His memories of CCHS were equally as important to him as all the schools he had served. God knew what was best for him. When I experienced similar distress in my career, Daddy reminded me that things happen for a reason. “Don’t add fuel to the flame, don’t quit, don’t think about it, and do your job,” he told me, and I listened to his wise counsel.
While Daddy taught at CCHS, my sister and I attended college and went on with our lives, marrying and starting families, giving Mother and Daddy five grandchildren, the loves of his life. He had mellowed over the years and openly showed his pride and affection to his grandchildren. When I moved back to Tennessee from Maryland, my children spent much time with their grandparents. One summer when they were in their teens, I received an early morning call. Daddy had paid his tobacco renter for his work and then fired him for failing to tend the crop properly. He told us to come down immediately to cut, haul, and hang the tobacco. Being city kids, they had no clue what they were facing. I knew, having been there before!
We arrived at 6:00 a.m. and completed the task at 10:00 p.m. In one day, they learned to drop sticks, cut, spud, haul and hang. I heard a girl’s voice yelling, “Give me a knife and that sharp thing (spud). If he can do it, so can I.” And so the girls did just that. While hanging tobacco in the barn, Daddy saw a huge wasp nest. I knew what was going to happen when he asked for an empty fertilizer bag. Even though he was deathly allergic to wasps, he was going to bring that nest down. My children watched in horror as he threw it to the ground and stomped it. That day was one of the best days of our lives. My children not only learned about grasshoppers, tobacco worms, and tobacco stain but also learned about the importance of hard work, togetherness, and responsibility.
When the crop was ready to be worked, we returned to pull off the tobacco leaves and pack them in bundles. Later, the tobacco was sold, and Daddy surprised his grandchildren by giving them all the money from the sale. After that, they continued to help Daddy set out and work the tobacco. One day I looked up to see Daddy coming down the hill with two loads of tobacco. He was driving a tractor hooked to a loaded wagon, another tractor, and yet another tobacco-filled wagon. Thank goodness my children weren’t along for this ride. He wasn’t going to risk their lives but had no fear for his. How many times did he jump from his tractor to save his life?
When Mother passed away, Daddy missed his wife of 53 years but went on with his life. He no longer raised tobacco but owned 250 head of cattle, who responded to the sound of his horn at feeding time. He mowed and baled hay and mended fences just as he had always done. Sometimes he asked my children to help with fences, which was a bad mistake. Not knowing what a gap was, they wired it together, making it a solid fence. When Daddy loaded his truck with trash and drove toward the dumping hole, he told my girls to open the gap, and they explained there wasn’t one. No argument could convince him otherwise, so he drove his truck right through the fence, making a new gap. His stubborn streak was alive and well! After dumping his trash, he calmly told his grandchildren to mend the fence, and they did.
During the summers he picked gallons of blackberries and gave them away to friends. On Sunday afternoons he visited the sick. He also went to ballgames, visited schools, attended class reunions, and never missed a Parrottsville fire supper. Sometimes, like President Jimmy Carter, he helped build habitat homes, and people who worked beside him complained that they couldn’t keep up with him. He had been a builder all his life, constructing many of the barns on the farm. Without any training, he drew up plans and just built barns. (The last barn he built was his own, the one that brought him to tears because his father had never lived to see it.) As always, church played a big part in his life, and he continued to teach Sunday school and served as a lay reader and council member as long as his health allowed. My children and I attended church with him and ate lunch together almost every Sunday. Playing Rook became his favorite pastime. On weekends Junior Gregg, who was like his son, picked him up, and they headed out to the houses of Ora Lee and Red, Gladys and Roy, or Jack, Jettie and Barry. They played for hours, once from 6:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. Card games, friends, laughter, popcorn, candy and cokes—what more did Daddy need? He never saw too much of his friends. Other amusements that brought him out of the fields were Bob Barker’s “Wheel of Fortune,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and a good baseball game.
Daddy didn’t like conflict; however, he never ran from it. When he was in his eighties, he received a call from a fire department asking for money. Always ready to make a contribution, he promised to put a check in the mail. The caller refused the check and said he would come to Daddy’s house to pick up cash and hung up. Becoming suspicious, Daddy called the fire department and learned there was no fund raiser. Immediately, he called Aunt Louise, who lived across the road, and told her of his plan. If a strange car showed up, she should sound her house alarm and call her son Randy for help. Meanwhile, he put a note on the door, explaining that he knew about the scam and expected to be robbed. Then he got his gun, threw down a pillow, and lay in a prone position for hours, waiting for an attack and preparing to protect his life and property. Lucky for the “fireman” he never appeared. Daddy’s dislike of thieves demanded action!
Daddy suffered a stroke in 2002, while helping to oversee the installation of a pump at Aunt Louise’s well house. This last chapter of his life was difficult for a man who had lived such an active life. He stayed with me for the next year and a half, returning home for the last six weeks of his life. He taught himself to write again, walked with a walker, attended class reunions and funerals, and still played Rook at a nearby senior citizen’s center. He also watched TV with Eunice, who had once rented his tobacco. I took him wherever he wanted to go, and his granddaughter Whitney brought him a stray cat, which he loved. Niki was living with me and lovingly and patiently responded to his every request. Dax visited him but was married and living in Atlanta. His first great-grandchild Sydney was born two weeks before he died. Sadly, he never saw her. Whitney (so much like her Pepaw) had also married but lived nearby and saw him every day. (Before his stroke, he proudly walked her down the aisle.)
Daddy has been gone for sixteen years, but his memory is very much alive. He made a great impact on the people who knew and loved him. This “man of his word,” who spoke his mind and stood by his decisions, lived to help others, worked harder than anyone I ever knew, and made a difference in his world. He believed the best about people and encouraged them to reach for their dreams. Their successes became his successes. He wasn’t perfect. None of us are. He made human mistakes but tried to learn from them.
Writing about Daddy’s life has been a daunting task. His love story is a good story that lives on through his family and friends. Any regrets? I never told him that I was proud of him, and I never told him I loved him enough times. I wish I had said those things, and I hope he knew how much I cared. I pray that Daddy’s story will never end, that his influence will live on through his grandchildren and the great-grandchildren he never met, who are like him in so many ways—their appearance, honesty, character, agility, love of sports, zest for life, and desire to help others. These children speak of Pepaw as though they knew him. Maybe they did because I believe that his spirit surrounds them. There was so much more to this complex man than my words can ever explain. I have barely touched upon the essence of the man that he was. But that’s another love story.