Part V: Going Home
This is the continuing story of Lee Farrier of Norfork, Arkansas, as told to me. If you have missed the previous parts, please click on the links below.
"After I saw Southern Christian Home in Morrilton, Arkansas, I wrote the administrators a letter. I told them that I used to live at their Home and boldly asked if they’d help me find my brother and sister who’d also been residents there. I had nothing to lose, so I added, ‘My mother died when I was little. I don't know who or where my biological father is. I don't know his first or last name nor the city I came from before I became a resident. I was adopted by Eunice and Lillie Farrier from Norfork, Arkansas.’ I laid every fact I possessed on the line.
"In a short time, I received a letter from the Home in Morrilton. It read, ‘We are not allowed, by law, to give you or anyone else information from our files, whether they have been a resident here or not. The adoption laws in the state of Arkansas prohibit our sharing information. We can, however, send you our monthly newsletter which goes all over the state.’ I double-checked this information. What they said was true. So there it was—no help from the Southern Christian Home. I had to swallow it and go on. I had a fine family in Norfork. That would have to be enough. And my work at Boeing was going well. No real complaints. It was more of a longing, as if something was missing in me that I could not name.
"The monthly letter from the Home came in the mail. As I recall, it gave people the option of donating back to the orphanage by monetarily sponsoring an orphan. They could send money which would be used to buy clothing and food for orphans. The second newsletter held a big surprise. When I opened it up, I saw a letter asking, ‘Where is my brother…?’ It was my letter, the one I'd sent to the Home! Under that letter was another, written by Bud, who was looking for his brother. He had been looking for me! Long story, short—Bud and I got connected and wrote back and forth. I told Bud about living in Norfork, being a sailor, working at Boeing. He told me that Billie Jean, our older sister, had run away from the orphanage first—and later, he did, too!
"Both Billie Jean and Bud had found their father Henry Gibson and his big, second family. Billie Jean lived with the family a short time. More than blending in, she was set on marrying a young man she’d met in Steele, Missouri, which is at the southeast corner of Missouri (the "bootheel") at the Arkansas/Missouri border, due east of Norfork about 160 miles. Bud also found our father and even lived with the family. He was pulled toward the military—first the Army, then the Air Force. When he had furloughs, he’d go home to St. Louis. Then, just as suddenly as I’d found Bud, I lost contact with him again.
"So, I was not the only one who’d run away, looking for my life. That restlessness may be part of me. While working for Boeing and on vacation in Norfork, I happened across an old friend from Norfork I highly respected, Gene Alexander. He had a crew of workers and would soon leave for Horton, Kansas. Said they’d be cutting stave bolts for barrels to be filled with whiskey. I thought about how great it’d be to work on a work crew with Gene. Maybe that Huckleberry Finn part of me was always ready for adventure. I definitely wanted to work with Gene.
"He left the option open by saying, ‘Let me know, Lee, if you want to come work with us.’ I spontaneously called Boeing and told my boss I’d not be coming back. When he asked why, I told him what I’d be doing. He laughed and said, ‘Lee, I will not let you quit. I’ll give you 31 days to come back.’ I responded, ‘I know what I’m doing.’ You need to understand that my wife was juggling two baby boys, 17 months apart in age, and was more than a little surprised at my decision.
"But off we went to my new job. Horton, Kansas was having zero temperatures. On some days, we could not work. And no work, no pay. At last, Erma said, ‘Lee, we will all starve and freeze to death if you don’t call Boeing.’ I heard the voice of truth and wisdom in her words. The next morning, I called Boeing. My boss said, ‘You have one day to get back here.’ I asked for $20 to make the trip. I put $10 worth of gas in the car and somehow managed to lose my billfold. We arrived in Wichita after dark. No money for a motel, so I parked at the Boeing plant. We slept in the car. The only food was the baby food and milk. Together, Erma and I quietly waited for dawn.
"After daylight, I went inside the plant to let Boeing know that I was there. Someone saw me, ran up, and said, ‘Follow me.’ We went directly to the finance office. I was given $500 cash and a plane ticket. I was told that I was needed in Hollyhock, Massachusetts. In two hours, they’d be taking me to the airport! I hurried back outside, gave Erma a kiss, hugged the boys, and handed my wife $250 dollars. I said, ‘Erma, go home. Take these boys and go home to Norfork.’
"I still thank God for His divine intervention."
To be continued…. Stay with me. Lee Farrier’s story isn’t over yet!
P.S. Thank you to everyone who has been sharing this story. Through one share, I was contacted by a couple who once knew Lee and Erma Farrier. What fun to revive connections from the past! Please feel free to share any of my blog posts.
Lee Farrier's sister, Billie Jean (Gibson) Payne Smith (1929-1999).
Books by Pat Durmon