Part VI: Going Home
Lee Farrier, an orphan who was adopted by a couple in Norfork, Arkansas, continues telling the miracle stories of his life. Part I tells how Lee became an orphan. If you've missed any parts of the story, or you just want to re-read to refresh your memory, please click on the links below.
“I never did find my biological father, but somehow, he found me. And on one of my work trips for Boeing, I juggled my work schedule to accommodate a meeting with Henry Gibson in St. Louis, Missouri. I now knew his name. I now knew my name before my adoption. I had been a Gibson.
"My father and I met near his workplace. As I think back, seeing him was like looking at myself in the mirror! And I remember how he pointed toward a young woman, starting to cross the street. ‘There’s Billie Jean!’ He called out to her, and before I knew it, the three of us were standing in the middle of the street, not sure what to do, what to say. Tears clouded my eyes.
"The next thing I recall was being seated on a stool somewhere next to him. He was a stranger but not really. What has stayed fresh with me through the years are his words, ‘I’ve looked everywhere for you….’ No personal computers in those days, you know, for helping people find people, only big rules that orphanages must follow. It makes good sense that Henry Gibson did look everywhere he knew to look. I watched as he and Billie Jean exchanged smiles.
“Billie Jean told pieces of her story. Just as Bud had revealed in letters, she’d run away from the orphanage and eventually found her way to Henry Gibson in Missouri. First, she’d followed a trail to Steele, Missouri, then on to St. Louis. Clearly, she, too, had longed for family. Not only did she find our father, but she’d found a home with another mother and lots of sisters. She stayed there awhile, but she was 14 and had already met Pete, her sweetheart from Steele [Missouri]. Billie Jean and Pete married and had four children. Her voice rose when she spoke of the children.
"From Billie Jean and the man she called Dad, I learned more about Bud. He kept reenlisting and staying in war zones, by choice. Our father commented, ‘Bud had to be shell-shocked.’ Soldiers have their reasons for reenlisting. They rise in rank and pay, of course. And some finally have a home with ‘brothers.’ That can feel good. So much to think about, so much to tell Erma when I got back home. Two families. I had two families—one in Norfork, one in St. Louis. I felt like skipping.
“Some time later, Boeing sent me to Merced, California. While there, my mama in Norfork received a letter from Vivian Simpson, a neighbor I’d grown up with. Mama forwarded the letter to me. Erma and I were in awe as we read and reread Vivian’s words. In essence, she wrote, ‘I’ve been working in St. Louis and talking to someone from Steele, Missouri. We’ve been comparing notes. There is a man, presently staying at my aunt’s place in Patterson, California. I am wondering if the man might possibly be kin to Lee.’
“I checked the state map. Patterson was six miles from where Erma and I were living at the time. I told Erma, ‘Why, that’s like on the other side of the door! Six miles away!’ A long shot, near impossible, but I had to check it out. The address was incorrect, but I drove straight to the police station to see if they might help. Not enough information, we agreed, but one officer had the time and was willing to spare the time.
"Seems like we went all over Patterson. We narrowed our focus to restaurants. At one place, an owner mentioned a customer who was ‘a regular’ for breakfast and dinner. And he commented on how, in the evenings, he was covered with dust. The officer thought from that description he might possibly work on one of the nearby farms. He started at the top of a list, calling farm owners. One thought of a hired hand who could be a possibility.
"The officer and I drove out to that farm and waited for the one in question to come out of the field. I studied him as he stepped out of a huge caterpillar with plows. He walked over to the officer, asking, ‘What’s the problem?’ The officer smiled a bit. ‘Well, I think I’ve got someone here who’s been looking for you.’ The man examined my face, then asked, ‘Are you Littl’n?’ Feelings flooded that spot in the field. Who else would call me that?
"Bud and I had a month to get to know each other before Boeing moved my family again. Erma kept saying, ‘The Lord is looking out for you, Lee. He always has.’ No other way to explain finding Bud. No person could have possibly orchestrated what had just happened.
“Pieces of my family puzzle were finally fitting together. One at a time, I began connecting with my St. Louis family and learning what great people they were. I was feeling more and more complete. Then, a heart attack! And another. I wasn’t even forty! I stuffed it. Seemed unbelievable to me, but Erma stayed on top of it, monitoring whatever needed to be monitored. I kept working, even moved to California with General Dynamics, then found my way back to the great state of Arkansas to work as a supervisor at Timex, in Little Rock. I worked hard during the week, but on weekends, Erma, our sons, and I’d run up to Norfork to visit and fish the rivers. By the way, Erma was the best fisherwoman I ever knew! Also, I wanted my family to have the best life possible. We couldn’t think of a better place than Norfork.
"It did not go without notice when Uncle Paul, who’d done well at Boeing in Wichita, returned to the Warren House in Norfork where Bernice, his sister, took in boarders. Bernice’s house had been Uncle Paul’s home after the war, and it would be again. Aunt Bernice and Mama were beyond happy to have their brother back home. They were proud as peacocks that he was sober and smiling. The brother they knew before the war had come back home.
"To me, it seemed that Uncle Paul was pretty much asked to be on every Board in town. A natural leader, he served our town however he could. As I think back on it, I’d seen him go about as low as a man could go, down to nothing, and then pop back up a fine citizen. I was busting with pride that he was my uncle. I stood in awe of him putting the bottle down and never picking it up again. I was not the only man in town who looked up to him.
"Tired of going back and forth to Norfork, Erma and I took the plunge. We bought acreage in Norfork, down near the White River, and built a boat dock there, not far from where I grew up, where I went to school, where I got baptized in some mighty cold water."
To be continued….