Part II: Going Home
To read Part I, click here
This is the continuing story of Lee Farrier of Norfork, Arkansas. If you haven't read Part I, please click on the link above.
"The three people making their way down the rows of children at the orphanage in Morrilton, Arkansas, were Eunice and Lillie Farrier and their driver, Albert Pickens. They’d come from Norfork, Arkansas, to find and get me. After gathering me, the four of us loaded into a big flat-bed truck and started for the Farrier home. Along the way, we stopped at a store. Mrs. Farrier said, 'There you are—chocolate, as much as you want.' I was not used to it, so I ate the Milky Ways and got mighty sick in the cab, throwing up on everyone. That’s how Mr. Farrier and I wound up riding in the back of the truck the rest of the trip.
“Right away, they helped me understand that I’d be staying the entire summer with them, but I’d return to the Southern Christian Home in the fall. These people wanted me to call them Mama and Daddy. Almost impossible, because I was still lonesome for my mother and father, my brothers and sister. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my brother and sister at the orphanage, so I had sadness living in every bone of my body.
“As soon as we got to their home, I started having nightmares. Not long after that, I fought sleep, because once I fell asleep, I’d start screaming and screaming, which forced Mr. and Mrs. Farrier to awaken me. These gentle people would be up the rest of the night, trying to comfort me. Then, Mr. Farrier went on to work the next day. Mrs. Farrier would stay close by. One day, the director of the children’s home came for a visit. He thought it best if I returned to the orphanage with him, but the Farriers wanted to keep me until fall, as agreed upon.
“The Farriers worked with me. Mrs. Farrier would hold, comfort, kiss me so much that I felt suffocated at times. But then, all that holding started to feel good. In fact, I found myself not wanting to miss a chance to be on her lap, being held. That was when I started to really like her."
No one talked about trust or bonding in those days, but that must be what was happening.
"Not long after that, my liking her turned to loving her and Mr. Farrier. That’s about the time I started calling them Mama and Daddy. We celebrated with cake and family dropping by! In the fall, the children’s home director returned to Norfork. He was glad to see the happiness in the Farriers and me, and he agreed to let me stay through the winter and the following summer. Surely he knew he’d have a scuffle on his hands if he dared try to take me back to the orphanage.
“It was time for me to start first grade, but Mama and Daddy talked with teachers. They concluded that I was still not settled enough for school, so I stayed out of school that entire year. Instead of going to school, I’d go with Daddy in the truck, hauling gravel from the riverbed to the dam being built. Otherwise, Mama kept eyes on me. It was a good year.
“My schooling in Norfork started the following year. It was a struggle to stay focused on what Mrs. Southard, 1st grade, and Mrs. Raymond, 2nd grade, were saying, but they were patient, made me feel special, and I learned."
God bless them.
"We were assigned our seats alphabetically for 12 years, so I had the same people on each side of me, every year. Talk about having a special bond with my classmates! I remember Daddy, Mama, and me going to the courthouse in Mountain Home to legally change my name to Lee Roy Farrier. Bothered me at first, but then—I got used to it.
“I once heard a politician talk about how it takes a village to raise a child. Since coming to Norfork, the grownups here guided, scolded, reminded, and fed me like I was one of their own. I remember when one even disciplined me! I’d heard an off-color joke that used foul language. I watched how people laughed and laughed at the joke. Later, Mama sent me to the store. She said, 'Straight there, straight back,' but I went by way of the railroad tracks. A kid can’t walk a straight line anywhere, you know. I met the maintenance crew working, so I told them my new joke. Calvin Arnold, the foreman, spoke up. 'Lee Roy, what did you say?' I repeated it, word for word. Next, he snatched me with one hand, grabbed his belt with the other. The moment he turned me loose, I headed for the store, then straight home. About dusty dark, Mr. Arnold came by the house and told my parents what I’d said and what he’d done. I don’t know which parent got me first, but I had three whippings in one day. That may be the day I learned to not curse and to watch what I said around town. Probably why I truly understand how it takes a village….
“My good friends lived on all sides of our house: O.C., Dale, Doyle, Alford, Paul, Ted, Rae, and Belle. It was like a picnic everyday on our street. Still, I could not get my brothers and sister out of my mind. And always—I stayed scared of getting too close to someone. Now, I suspect I was afraid they’d leave me or reject me. One morning, I headed over to Janelle’s house. We played together ’most every day. Someone met me at her gate, saying, 'Stop. Go back home as fast as you can…. Janelle died of diphtheria last night. If you get it, you could die too….' My nightmares began again. I started doing badly in school and pulled away from everyone, including the teachers. My parents started holding me again.
“It seemed everyone in Norfork knew about my troubles. I guess that made it a town problem. Love came at me from every direction. Somehow I made it through those hard days. It was a good sign, my mama thought, when I began playing with the kids on my corner of the block. One Christmas, I was in a contest with Jackie Bonner. We were running for King and Queen, and we won! That didn’t hurt my feelings one bit. And although I was slow in school, I believed nothing was better than getting up and heading out the door for school. Probably no one more loyal to a school than me. Perfect attendance one year.
“I was going great guns—passing my assignments, watching my mouth, having fun times—until 6th grade. That’s when I came down with appendicitis. That pain was like no other in the world. I needed help, but the closest hospital was Batesville, Arkansas, about 60 miles away. The war was on, so nobody in town had enough gas to take me that far. The town of Norfork must have taken the problem personally—the townspeople started drawing whatever gas they had from each car until they were confident it was safe for us to get on the road.
"When we got to the hospital, the doctor said, 'You should’ve been here yesterday for me to help you, but I’ll try.' Surgeons used ether in those days. One minute I was lying on a table in the operating room. The next minute I was drifting up to the ceiling, where I listened to the doctor talk about fishing Lake Norfork. Fantastic flight over their heads! I stayed in the hospital for several weeks recuperating. While there, a man sat on a stool in the corner of my room, listening and talking to me, saying over and over that I’d be okay. He kept saying, 'You’ll get well. I’ll see to it.' When almost well, I asked Mama about the man. I was just wondering if he'd gone home. She said she never saw him."
To be continued….
P.S. Maybe you or someone you know was an orphan. You always have my permission to share my posts, and I would appreciate your sharing this one, too! I'm grateful to all my readers.
Lee Farrier, Norfork, Arkansas
Books by Pat Durmon