Once again I let some one die
before I told them how knowing them was a highlight of my life.
I first met James Johnson after running in front of his bicycle and
being knocked to the ground. I was about 7 years old and James was
10 years older than Me. We had moved from the Federal Prison in
Alderson on land where My father built a house near James' home. In
fact his house and the one he would buy later in his life near the
covered bridge that used to stand over Muddy Creek, were once owned
by my Grandfather James William Thurmond.
I grew up following James around a
whole lot. His parents were wonderful farm people and his father had
a lantern with a bullet hole in he had shot out of the hand of a
would be chicken thief. He could always out shoot each of us.
As James grew older he attended W
VU and became an Army Air Corps flier. I found out what he was doing
by way of his parents. I cut grass, killed chickens, and made extra
money for his mom and Dad. I never killed a chicken in my life until
Mrs. Johnson had about six hens in a coop she was getting ready for
a church event. I did the dirty deed one after the other. I haven't
done that since.
When James started as the 4-H
county agent is when we really started spending time together. I
spent many a Saturday driving his "power glide" Chevy to Lewisburg
and other places to meetings he had to go to. We went to several
stock sales at the large farms around the Lewisburg area. Dinner at
the sale was usually a steak that was the size of the paper plate it
was on. It was a real learning experience.
I remember a pregnant cow (I don't
remember the proper name for this) sold for $3000.00. I didn't know
there was that much money. James always made sure when 4-H camp came
around I would have a job to do and never have to pay my way. I made
friends I have today at those camps from State Police to Episcopal
James was very good to me and
didn't tell my parents when he found me outside at night exchanging
a few kisses with young ladies from White Sulphur and Ronceverte, or
where ever they came from. I remember bumming a ride to a skating
rink in Monroe county while he was on a date with his future wife.
We all jumped out windows with skates on and scattered when a man
came in and said a Fire Warden was looking for men to fight a forest
fire. In W VA in those days if you were 16 or above you had to go if
asked. I don't remember how I got home but it worked out ok. I did
fight a forest fire one time and was paid 25 cents per hour. They
didn't want it to look like a way to make money by starting fires.
I always enjoyed coming to Alderson
and visiting him at the old Thurmond home place. It always was a
special place to me. I called James when I heard about the death of
his son. I know he never got over that but is together with him and
his wife now. James was a man that young people looked up to and was
a leader to me and many. He was one of my heroes. Rest in piece my
friend and now I can finally catch up to you in age. Only 10 more
years to go.