Randy Willis #randywillis

#randywillis

December 25, 1941, The Ole Willis Home Place
Barber Creek, Longleaf, Louisiana

Ran Willis arises before sunrise, nestles next to the fireplace, with hot coffee—as alone as the morning star.

The wind whistles through the dogtrot and awakens Julian. He struggles upright, half asleep, and rubs his eyes as he pours a cup of coffee.

“It’s our first white Christmas! Grab some firewood—please. And check on the horses, mules, and the dogs too.”

“Yes, sir, Daddy. Merry Christmas!” Julian shivers as he chips through the frozen water trough with a horseshoe. He gathers the firewood, now covered in two foot of snow. Icicles adorn the trees overhanging Barber Creek. It is cold and rather barren, but it has the loveliness of a Christmas card. And, like a Christmas card, it will hold that image in Julian’s mind for years to come.

Ran’s eldest son, Howard, driving his International Harvester truck, can be heard a mile away as it plows through the snow on the red dirt road. The family knows there will be no snowfall that will prevent Howard from delivering a Christmas tree to the homestead—a real tree, and not one of those artificial, awkwardly bent imitation trees that have no texture, no fragrance, no fullness.

“That’s a big cedar. Let me help.” Julian drags the Christmas tree out of the truck bed.

Howard’s wife, Zora cries out, “I need help, too.” Ran clasps her. “Ah-ha! All my favorites: freshly baked pies, peach preserves, and okra in mason jars. Oh, my, and even your famous buttermilk pie.”

Ran’s wife Lillie collects each family member’s handcrafted decoration for the tree. “Let’s hang them.” The aroma of cedar, sugared fruit, and gingerbread brings back memories of Christmases past.

Today is Ran and Lillie’s grandson Donnie’s fourth birthday, to boot. “Can I play with my birthday gifts, Grandpa?”

“Yep, but keep the stick horse at a trot. Let him get used to this colder weather, eh? See what else Santa left you. The new game Shoot the Moon and a wooden jigsaw carton puzzle.”

Good, long-time neighbors, John and Ruth Duke, along with their two kids, Johnnie Ruth and Jerry, arrive with a pumpkin pie and two fruitcakes.

Miss Ruth always spikes her fruitcakes with a little rum. “It’s no different from using cooking sherry and, therefore, is not an affront to the Lord,” Ruth says. “It provides moisture and helps preserve the cake.”

Ran fidgets. “The better part of valor is not to mention that to Lillie. Her definition of what constitutes a mortal sin may be different from ours. Let me taste-test the cake for moisture.” He pinches off a nibble and smacks his lips in approval. “Now, indeed, that’s the moistest cake ever! I may have another slice or two later.”

Johnnie Ruth and Donnie sit on the floor. Donnie prefers Conflict, a military board game—Johnnie Ruth, paper dolls.

Howard reaches and hangs the star of Bethlehem on the tree. “It almost touches the ceiling.” His brother Herman carved it from a piece of hickory. Christmas stockings, stuffed with nuts, candy, and fruit, hang on every available nail. Earlier, Lillie had placed books, tablets, pencils, wooden soldiers, and even a-rockin’ horse under the tree.

The children’s faces glow from the fireplace. Herman stokes the fire with a piece of pine-kindling.

The sunrise colors glisten in the snow. “Who can paint like the Lord of creation?” Lillie proclaims.

Donnie and Johnnie Ruth grab a shovel, off to go sledding from the barn. They slide down the hill to the banks of Barber Creek.

“You kids get back up here,” Lillie yells. “That’s too dangerous. Ten more feet and you’d both be frozen lollypops!”

Julian blows in his horse’s nose to calm him. It’s not the first time the animal has experienced snow, but it has been a long time, and any sudden change in the weather makes horses skittish, until they get reassurance from their masters that all is well and everything is still just fine. “The Comanche use to do this in Texas. Helps you bond with the horse.”

“I’m going to churn ice cream in my new pewter pot,” Lillie promises. She stirs snow, milk, cream, butter, and eggs. She also prepares Ran’s favorites, especially dewberry pie, along with a cup of kindness known as Community dark roast coffee.

Ran grins. “I hung some mistletoe.”

Lillie looks him in the eyes and kisses him on the cheek. “The kids.”
“We have enough to feed Camp Claiborne’s 34th Red Bull Infantry,” Ran says. The nearby U.S. Army military camp accommodates 30,000 men but does not give Lillie a sense of safety. A world war is still raging, and every American is on alert.

Lillie’s eyes sparkle. “Please play my favorite Christmas carol—O Holy Night?” Ran’s father bought him a fiddle on a cattle drive from East Texas when he was barely twelve. He spent his evenings teaching himself the fingering and bowing techniques.

“How can I refuse a woman of such virtue—and one so beautiful? Our home overflows with your sweet joy.”

Lillie hugs him. “Will it be our last Christmas with our sons?”
The snow drifts against the windows and doors, begging entrance into their lives like the events of the previous three weeks.

“There’s nothing as peaceful as Louisiana Longleaf pines covered in a fresh layer of snow,” Ran muses. “Ah, if only our world were that way.”

Ran’s eighteen-year-old nephew, Robert Willis, Jr., enlisted July 31, 1940, and reported aboard the battleship USS Arizona, on October 8, 1940, at Pearl Harbor. A surprise military strike by the Japanese Navy Air Service on the morning of December 7, 1941, detonated a bomb in a powder magazine. The battleship exploded and sank. Hundreds of marines and sailors were trapped as the ship went down.

The family held out hope, but those hopes had been vanquished a week ago, like a shadow darkening all elements of light. Rapides Parish Sheriff, U. T. Downs, along with Robert’s pastor from First Baptist Church, Pineville, delivered a Western Union telegram to Robert’s father.

Downs struggled to speak with tears in his eyes. “It has been confirmed that Robert’s entombed in the USS Arizona at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. I just can’t tell you how grieved I am to have to bring this news to you, and especially so soon after Thanksgiving. This is the part of my job that I dread the most. If there’s anything I can do for you folks, just say the word.”

Howard and Zora took Donnie to the Pringle Picture Show in Glenmora to see How Green Was My Valley. “We need to seem as if nothing has changed for Donnie’s sake,” Zora insists. “I fear that we will be one of many, many families who will receive telegrams before this war is over. Our hearts are broken, but we must carry on.”

Julian now works with the horses and mules—plenty of grain, hay, and water for them. He grooms their coats of hair and checks to see if they are sound and well-shod. He’s gentle with horses, the elderly, and children, but as tough as rawhide on men who are no-account. “I wish I could ride you guys into battle, but an airplane will have to do.”

Two stray goats, covered with ice, nudge their way into the barn. Julian jumps up to shoo them back outside. “Get out of here. You’re going to break Daddy’s deer horn hat rack I made. It’s his Christmas gift.” The goats resist but then yield when Julian gives each a swat.

Herman, quiet and soft-spoken, takes off, without saying a word—impeccably dressed, as always.

Howard and Julian help their father with the firewood. “It’s best you two find him—now! Take my Ford,” Ran insists.

They pump ten gallons of gas into Ran’s ’40 Ford Coupe at Bob Johnson’s Grocery Store at Shady Nook. “Where do you think he’s at?” Howard asks.

“Charlie’s Cafe in Glenmora is the closest—let’s try there first.”

“He just left, but not until he whipped two men for making fun of his khaki pants,” the owner tells them when they arrive.

“Did he say anything?” Julian asks.

“He mentioned, he would not be back, ever, and he preferred Boom Town’s honky-tonks. Not sure which one, but they’re all outside Camp Claiborne’s main gate. As long as that base keeps bringing in new boys who are wet behind the ears and willing to waste their pay during a weekend pass, those places will thrive. Check ’em one by one.”

This time one man lay on the floor in need of medical attention.

“Let’s check the Wigwam, in Forest Hill,” Julian says, “before someone kills him or, God forbid, wrinkles his pants.”

The sounds from the beer joint known for live music and its jukebox shakes the windows as they drive into the parking lot. Chicken wire fencing wraps around the bandstand to keep the band from getting hit with beer bottles.

As they enter, the bartender yells. “Break ’em up before they destroy the place!” Three men are holding Herman while two others are landing repeated punches and kicks. The jukebox blares Jimmie Davis’s hit—I Hung My Head and Cried.

Herman, bleeding like a stuck pig, calls out, “Are y’all going to help me or just stand there, whistlin’ Dixie?”

“I’ll take the three holding him, you the other two. Use that chair, Howard.”

After a melee of about ten minutes, they settle with the barkeeper for fifty bucks in damages and haul Herman outside to his truck. His lip is busted, his nose is bleeding, and one eye is starting to seal shut. He refuses to show any sign of weakness or pain, although he wheezes when drawing in a breath between bruised ribs.

They arrive home in time for a delayed supper. Ran examines Herman’s cuts and bruises. “Save all that anger for the Japs and Hitler.”

Lillie brings clean towels. “My three sons fighting in the Devil’s playground and on Christmas Day! May the Good Lord find mercy to forgive you for such behavior!”

Ran smiles. “At least they didn’t go to the Duck Inn…it provides more than liquor.” She does not find the humor in his observation, as her grimace reveals.

Lillie pulls her collar up, tightens her scarf, shoves her hands deep into her pockets, turns her face, and walks outside into the biting wind. “I need to gather more snow for the ice cream.”

She returns—but with no snow. “It’s suppertime.” Her words are all that is needed for family and guests to gather around the candle-lit table.

As Ran says grace, a light dispels the darkness in their hearts just as the Star of Bethlehem did long ago. The reflection in Lillie’s face, from the beckoning candle, contradicts the devastating news from Hawaii.

Ran bows his head as everyone joins hands. “Lord, we know the world will still turn, the songbirds will again make their joyful sounds, and this too will pass. Keep our sons in the hollow of Your hand. Bless this food—and bless our nation. In the name above all names—Jesus.”

American men from coast to coast step forward to retaliate against the attack on U.S. soil.

In the days shortly after Thanksgiving, Julian had enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and Herman in the ground forces Army after hearing President Roosevelt’s words on the radio: “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”

Howard went with his brothers and did his best also to enlist. However, the recruiter didn’t even need to wait for the results of a physical to see that Howard had a deformity that would make him 4-F. Howard had a serious head injury, caused by a blow from a split rim truck wheel. It had exploded while Howard was filling a tire with air in Glenmora. He tried to disguise the injury by pulling a cap down over his hair and forehead, but the recruiter—who was not new to his job—pulled off the cap, surveyed the scar, and motioned a thumb over his shoulder, indicating Howard was “out” of the running.

Ran tried to assure Howard he could still be of service to the nation in other ways. For a scrapper and brawler like Howard, those words brought little appeasement.

Now, as they continue to enjoy what will probably be the last Christmas as a united family for perhaps years to come, Howard stokes the flames in the fireplace with a kindling-stick from a busted chiffarobe.

Ran raises his fiddle. “Join me, in the family key.” Everyone joins in.
“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

As the long day ends, Ran leafs through his great-grandfather Joseph Willis’s six-inch thick leather-bound journal written long ago.

“What would he do?”

*****
Destiny is a sweeping family saga that spans four centuries. It is the story of two great nations, and my ancestor’s struggle from tyranny—religious and political.

—Randy Willis, 2019

Website: http://threewindsblowing.com/

Destiny trailer: https://youtu.be/jkzpyTJfvR0

Destiny is available now at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733567402

Destiny the movie

 

Destiny 3D upload

#randywillisRandy Willis #randy willis

 

Randy Willis

#randywillis

Destiny was inspired by true stories handed down by Randy Willis’s ancestors.

The trilogy was revised and expanded in 2019. Three Winds Blowing, for instance, is sixty pages longer than the original. Louisiana Wind and Beckoning Candle were rewritten and lengthen, too.

Destiny includes the biography of Joseph Willis as an appendix.

In these four books in one, Joseph Willis discovers the answers to four questions: 1) His origin—how did his life come to be in the first place? 2) Meaning—to what purpose was he born? 3) Morality—what is right and what is wrong? And 4) His destiny—what will happen to him in his journey of life and when he dies?

*****

Destiny is a sweeping family saga that spans four centuries. It is the story of two great nations, and the true story of Randy Willis’s ancestor’s struggle from tyranny—religious and political.

Destiny is available on Amazon at this link https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733567402

Randy Willis | Jake Willis

My Dad and I were working cows in this photo.

I wrote this tribute to my Dad in my novels, Louisiana Wind and Destiny.

“The best men I’ve known have been cowmen. There’s a code they live by—it’s their way of life. It starts with an abiding reverence for the Good Lord.

They’re taught to honor and respect their parents and to share both blanket and bread. Their words are their bond, a handshake their contract.

They’re good stewards of His creation, the land. They believe the words in His Book.

Learn from these men—from their stories of triumph over tragedy—victory over adversity, for the wisdom of others blows where it wishes—like a Louisiana Wind.” — Jake Willis

This is the story of such men….

✯ ✯ ✯
Destiny is available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733567402
Randy Willis
Website: http://threewindsblowing.com/

Amazon author’s page: http://amazon.com/author/randywillis

Randy Willis Jake Willis

#randywillis

#randywillis #jakewillis #julianwillis #destiny

Randy Willis | Lady Bird Johnson

The last time I saw Lady Bird Johnson was at the Headliners Club in Austin, Texas.

This inscription is on the inside cover of her book, Wildflowers Across America. She had it hand-delivered to me at my home in Austin.

The Texas bluebonnets in bloom this month remind me of her.

Photo of note to Randy Willis from three generations of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s family: Lady Bird Johnson, Luci Baines Johnson, and Nicole Nugent Covert.

Vaya con Dios,

Randy Willis #randywillis #ladybirdjohnson

http://threewindsblowing.com

Randy Willis Lady Bird Johnson

Randy Willis #randy willis

Easter 1900 | Randy Willis

#randywillis

April 15, 1900
Easter Sunday
Amiable Baptist Church

Father had taught me much about being a cowman, and about life, too. He encouraged me to write it all down on my Big Chief writing tablets he’d bought me. He said it was so that, “Those who come after us might not make the same mistakes.”

I heard tell the crappie were biting down on Cocodrie Lake. But, this being Easter they’d just have to wait to jump into my boat. Our Dominicker rooster’s crowing reminded me I should start loading the wagon for church. I was truly excited, for Father had been asked to speak that day at Amiable Baptist. Father was frail but up to the task. There would be a huge supper on the grounds after church.

I’d told Mama we should have Easter eggs. A friend of mine from Spring Hill Academy told me all about them.

He said, “When my folks lived in Germany, they decorated eggs at Easter.”
Mama replied, “That will never catch on here. The hens would revolt, and me, too.”

“Mama, they hid them, too.”

She looked puzzled and asked, “Why in the world would they do that? Were they that ugly?”

“Not to worry, Mama, a rabbit then helps them find the eggs.”

“Son, I’m going down to that school tomorrow to see if they’ve been into the cooking sherry.”

I quickly changed the conversation. “Mama, what did you bake for the supper on the grounds?”

“Apple pie, of course. And, your father has butchered a hog, so were taking a smoked ham from our smokehouse, too. You know, son, Baptists love to eat. Some I know are digging their grave with a fork.”

Mother then added, “You know your Grandpa Daniel, Sr. was the pastor there for many years. He died a year and a week to the day after you were born. He was cut from the same cloth as his Grandfather Joseph Willis, and he even planted more churches than he did. He was the best man I ever knew. It was his words of wisdom from the Book that gave me strength to go on after the deaths of your brother and sisters.”

As our wagon rolled down the red dirt road I could see the church steeple pointing toward Heaven. It would forever remind me of Father’s words that day. As the folks gathered, father arose and slowing walked to the front of the crowd. Elwa held his arm to steady him. He spoke with a frail voice.

“Now, friends, as you know, I’m no preacher. But, I’ve been asked to speak a few words of my father, who is buried a few yards from here.

“But, then again, he’s not there. Now, some of ya might be thinking that’s not true. You might say, I was at his funeral. Others of you saw him in his open casket. A few of you helped lower his pine box in the ground, shoveled dirt on it, too.

“I can only explain why I believe that by using his own words about the loss of his Preacher. If you don’t mine, I’ll read them.

“’It was a sad day—the saddest day ever. For you see our Country Preacher had died. I trusted him. I’d staked my future on him. But now he was extinguished like a flickering candle in the wind. The young Preacher’s enemies, and there were many, had won. Success had eluded him, for you see he didn’t have enough money even for a grave, much less a marker. Fortunately, a kind soul gave him one.

The womenfolk buried him on a Friday, for you see none of the men could be found, save one.

“’Oh, yes, he’d made some promises, big ones too. The kind no man could keep. But, he now had faded as the autumn colors. As victors, his enemies would surely exact revenge on his friends, so they hid like rabbits in a hole. One broke his promise and denied him. Still, another betrayed him. Many others even hated him. He was rejected by the religious folk of that day.

“’The woman didn’t seem to be afraid though, and three days later went to the cemetery to tend to him. But, he was not there, for you see the Country Preacher had risen, just as He said he would. One of the women told his followers He was alive. After seeing all He’d done, one of friends even doubted that.’

“Today, many doubt that story, too, but I don’t. Now, my friends, that’s why I know my father is not in that grave cross the road. Because if it could not hold that Country Preacher, it cannot hold my father, or me one day in the not so distant future. He had taken death, the grave, and even Hell captive. I have but three words to say. They’re the three greatest words ever spoken: ‘He is risen.”’

As father ended his words, mother stood and began to sing, “Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior.” We all joined in, “Up from the grave he arose; with a mighty triumph o’er his foes. He arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever, with his saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!”

Yes, I was the first in line for Mama’s apple pie…but first I accepted the truth of my father’s words when I walked to the front of that church and knelt and asked Christ to come into my life and take over. For, you see, he arose for me, too, and you, too!

Suddenly watching paint dry was exciting to me….

*****
Destiny by Randy Willis

Available now at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733567402

#randywillisDestiny 3D upload

Destiny | Randy Willis

#destiny #randywillis

Destiny is by far the most comprehensive book about Joseph Willis (1758-1854) ever written.
 
The sweeping family saga spans four centuries and includes his ancestors, beginning in 1575, and his descendants ending in 1941.
 
It also includes his biography as an appendix.
 
Destiny is a powerful epic with love stories, battles, testimonies, drama, politics, history, and even humor.
 
True stories inspire it.