Part VII: Going Home
Lee Farrier of Norfork, Arkansas, tells us a story about how he and his wife Erma became best friends with Paul and Connie Huskey. To catch up, click on the links below.
"Erma and I were raising two active boys in Little Rock. On weekends, we’d go home to Norfork, Arkansas. The joy of fishing there was a strong draw. Being near extended family was another. When the door opened for us to move, it opened wide and we walked through. Erma and I moved our family back to our hometown. To this day, we love the mountains and rivers known for their world record trout. We’d saved a little money and bought acreage along the White River, and we built a boat dock. Looked like prime location, but we knew there was risk. Would the fishermen come?
"We were spending our years parenting two boys and helping others fish. Well, sir, that meant work and fun. I was a go-getter in those days. Work didn’t seem like work to me. I especially liked it when either of the boys worked at the trout dock with me. I had the same joy a dog has when chasing a truck. Guides and fishermen kept coming back. What fun when people came in off the water and told their fishing stories and jokes.
"I was living the good life. Our children grew up too fast, of course, and went on with their lives. Then one day, I was approached by a man who wanted to buy the fishing dock. Erma and I talked it over. I wasn’t ready to sell, but the offer was too good to turn down.
"After selling, I had some sad moments. Then I turned my mind to building a house for Erma. We had property below the fork of the North Fork and White Rivers. With the help of contractors, the shell of the house went up quickly. My plan was to do the inside myself. Some of us men need to leave fingerprints on our own house. I definitely was one. I jumped into it with no experience in the building trade. It was learn-as-you-go. I was right pleased, until it came to trimming windows and doors. A friend dropped by while I was working. Without hesitation, he said, ‘Lee, you have just ruined your house. Trim work is not your gift. Do you know about that new Baptist preacher in town? He preaches on Sundays and does carpentry on the side. He might be able to help you out.’
"I contacted that preacher the very next day. When he found us, he asked, ‘What’s your trouble?' Immediately, however, he spotted the trouble. It probably took Paul Huskey a week to have my house looking so good that I felt like dancing. Thank God this man rescued me from trimming windows! Paul then asked if he might bring his wife by to see the house. Well, of course we gave Connie the big tour, and then we all landed in the kitchen for cake and ice cream. Connie said, ‘What nice work. What a beautiful house.’ She went on to say that they could not expect to ever have a permanent home like ours. Preachers get moved around so much.
"After Paul and Connie left, Erma said, ‘Lee, we could help them.’ As she talked, we thought of where and how they could build. Just a bunch of ideas, but it sounded reasonable to us. I had the time to help with the building of another house. Their boys could help, too. If they were big enough to play basketball, we figured they could hammer nails. That night, I probably slept with a smile on my face. The next day, we laid out some possibilities for Paul and Connie. They looked at each other, nodded, and then Paul spoke, accepting and revising the plan. The particular details are fuzzy now, but it worked out for them to live next door to us.
"Paul and I worked as a team on his house. One day Paul proposed that we start a small company together, doing repairs. He took the lead on this. I happily followed. We built additions on churches, repaired burnt-out houses, worked on barns, whatever came along. What I noticed as I worked with Paul Huskey was that he lived his religion and beliefs. Always, that came first. If anyone needed help, Paul was there. He’d just show up at their house as if they’d called him. I was watching and learning from him on many levels.
"Between our two houses, there was a good bit of ground. Paul was a gardener and said, ‘We could have a heck of a garden here.’ I happened to have a tractor with all the implements. Each summer, Paul and I would plant it, work it, pick it. My sons had already left home, but Paul’s sons helped work the common garden, which was huge and produced abundantly—more than Connie and Erma could put up. That’s when Paul and I’d fill a 20-foot trailer with vegetables and take them up and down the streets of Norfork. We took bags with us. People would come out of their houses and happily receive whatever we had to give. It was thrilling to me to give the vegetables away. I’d always heard it was better to give....
"Turned out that Paul knew several older people who had no insulation in their ceilings. What did we do? We became a little creative, taking insulation out of houses to be demolished and putting it in homes where insulation was needed. If I remember correctly, a builder in Batesville loaned us an insulation-blower and gave us supplies when he knew we were getting low. I wish I could remember his name. Whatever we needed, it seemed to come our way. You never knew which direction help would come from, but it’d come.
"You might hear me brag now and then about how well everything would just fall into place, how well Paul and I did as a team. But then, he and I’d talk and agree that the Lord was leading us. We couldn’t do anything without Him. Before Paul came into my life, I thought I didn’t have time for church and that I’d lost all my religion, but Paul was slowly pulling me back to it. Not one time did he push religion. He just lived it out in front of me. Guess that got me in position for the Lord to work on me. I surely loved the work we were doing. In fact, I was having the time of my life! Paul Huskey was the most unique person I ever knew, and he was my best friend.
"Then Paul was called to the Batesville area to take over a church. His family moving absolutely blindsided me. Paul always knew this could happen. He and Connie left Baxter County with their younger children. And it wasn’t long until Paul was building the largest church in Batesville. I went to work as a state appraiser. That meant some traveling, and when I worked anywhere near Batesville, I’d pop-in for an hour and visit. It was like a Band-aid for me. Often when I was leaving, I’d say, ‘Paul, I wish you’d find a church in Norfork and move back home.’
"One day, he was ready for me. ‘Lee, we've been like family all these years, and not one time did you come to my church, not one time did you hear me talk to a congregation about the Lord, so why do you want me to move back?’ His directness caught me off guard, but neither of us ever pulled any punches. I said, ‘Because, Paul, we are brothers, family, and my life is not the same. I don't have you there to talk with, helping me, guiding me. I so love how it was—the way we lived next to each other, surrounded by those great people in Norfork. Paul, I want it back to the way it was.’
"Surprisingly, Paul said, ‘I’ll talk to some people in Little Rock, and we’ll just see what happens.’ I responded, ‘Paul, I’ll come to your church and sit in the front pew if you will come back.’ I recall Paul’s warning words. ‘Lee, be careful what you’re saying.’ I knew what he meant: miracles can and do happen. Still, I could not shut up. ‘Try me, Paul. Try me.’
"In about three weeks, a big truck and a cattle trailer came down our street. Paul was back! The next morning, he knocked on our door, saying, ‘Well, I’m here and ready. Are you?’
"Sunday morning came. We arrived at the church late. Paul was already in the pulpit. He stopped talking and said to the congregation, ‘This is a great day for me.’ Erma and I started to sit down near the back, but Paul looked at us. ‘Lee, aren’t you forgetting something?’ I suddenly remembered what I had promised. I looked at Erma and said, ‘I’m going down front.’ Erma was right behind me. We sat down right there in the front pew. Paul preached the gospel. It was the greatest day of my life. Eventually we joined the church, and Erma was baptized in Norfork Lake.