Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

July 6, 2014

Hard work and cards

Boyd man, 96, reflects on the variety of his life

CANNONSBURG — William Terry got kicked by a cow for his 96th birthday, although he’ll tell you that was no big deal.

“That didn’t amount to nothing. I’ve been kicked 100 times. Not 100, but 10 or 12 times” he said, pulling up the leg of his pants to show the spot where the cow got him a few days ago, just moments before practically springing to his feet for a chance to show a stranger the goods in the big garden he tends next to the house.

Terry, who served in the Army during World War II, grew up in Boyd County and went to work in the coal mines several years before Uncle Sam called him up to serve. He recently celebrated his 96th birthday at Armco Park, surrounded by family, including two sisters who are quick to say their brother is still a good-looking man.

“I remember him coming home in his uniform. I was laying on his arm,” said his sister Dot, seated beneath a shelter at Armco Park along with sibling Mary, who smiled as she added their brother “served in a lot of places,” but never had to go overseas because he played cards with all of the right officers. Both sisters beam as they talk about their brother, especially while pointing out he reshingled his own roof a few years ago, and then painted his own house the next year.

“Oh, and he keeps a big garden,” one said as the other began reciting a list of the good things Terry grows every year at the garden next to his home in Cannonsburg.

Sitting at home a few days later, Terry confirmed his sister’s reports about his hard-working ways.

“I can do any kind of work. I can work on cars or anything. I can paint. I painted three or four years. I can still do it, but now I’m dizzy. I have to take pills and everything,” he said, grinning while listing the number of rows he has planted in green beans, corn, blackberries, potatoes, tomatoes and more in this year’s garden.

“We don’t buy much food,” he said, adding his regrets that much of his garden’s produce will likely go to waste this year because there will be too much for himself and his wife, Anna Lee, and the rest of their family to eat and share.

“I can handle honeybees, too,” he added.

Terry says he’s lived a good life that was made better by honest work for honest pay, along with a few good hands at the card table along the way.

“I worked in the coal mines for seven years before I went into the service. I ran a joy loader, an auger, all kinds of small tools,” he said, adding he didn’t mind leaving the mines behind to serve his country when called. “I was drafted. I didn’t care to go.”

He fit in well with the military, although he said he didn’t want to make a career of it.

“I was a corporal. I drilled and trained many a man and helped them,” he said, adding his experience as an ace mechanic and a good marksman gave him an advantage while in the service.

“I hunted with a pistol — a .22. I hunted rabbits and squirrels. I got to be almost an expert,” he said, shaking his head and almost whispering an added, “ ... long time ago,” to conclude the memory.

“I served until it was all over. I got an honorable discharge, buddy,” he said, again beaming at the memory of his time at Fort Thomas, where he met the young woman he would make his wife and bring back to eastern Kentucky, where they raised seven children together. His wife, Anna Lee, was working at an aircraft plant “riveting” when they met. She said she first noticed him when he was tagging along with another soldier who was dating a friend of hers, “and he just kept coming back.”

“She wanted me to come back,” he said with a grin, adding she may have also been fond of the 1936 Chevrolet he won in a poker game and used for their dates. With 69 years together, he now affectionately calls his wife “Boss,” and swears she has “never once raised her voice” during their years as man and wife.

Cards have always been a friend, Terry says, citing his own skills as a dealer.

“I don’t do nothing for fun now. I used to play cards. I was a good gambler — one of the best. I won a lot of money in the Army,” he said, later explaining he paid $3,500 for their homestead in Boyd County, and paid it all off in three months by dealing cards in Catlettsburg.

Terry has held many jobs in his life, including years of work at a local brick plant, but proudly points out he never cashed a paycheck. He can still dig a batch of Irish potatoes out of the ground with the flick of a hoe that reflects years of experience at the task, and picks green beans off the vine by the bucketful with the speed of a man half his age, or less. Offering his personal endorsement for the machines made by the Gravely company, he pats his old rotary plow and affirms it has been on the job for the past 40 years.

Terry says he’s only recently begun to feel his age.

“Three or four months ago — that’s when it hit me. I can’t do nothing now. I can still drive,” he said.

“I never had a wreck. I never was arrested and I never did bother nobody,” he said, clarifying that he was in a couple of fights when he was younger, but was never a fighter like his late brother, Tom Terry, a World War II veteran who never drank or gambled, but loved a good fight.

Asked about his advice for a long and rewarding life, Terry pauses only for a moment before answering. “Take care of yourself. Drink a little whiskey, but not too much.”

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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