Mar. 18, 2022

ONLY IN A SMALL TOWN....

Everyone in Pine Bluff knew them as the Woodfield sisters. One never married and the other one—well--- after a few years of marriage and discovering her husband was a no-good drunk, younger-sister divorced him and moved back home with her spinster sister.

Both sisters worked almost all of their lives, one as a burial insurance secretary and the other as a sales lady at Froug Department Store. Over time, as they grew older and had medical problems, they stopped working but continued to go to church regularly and take banana nut bread--their specialty-- to shut-ins and friends.

Women loved my Daddy and the Woodfield sisters were no exceptions. They met him when he remodeled their bathroom. Younger-sister, recently diagnosed with serious eye troubles, needed a shower rather than their old bathtub from the forties. They chose my father to do the work and--from that time forward--he was their best friend.

Over the years, as the sisters grew older and their incomes grew smaller, they weren't able to attend church regularly, or visit the sick as often so--fewer people received their delicious gift of banana nut bread. Money wasn't their only problem. Although their old car sat in the driveway, ready to go, finding someone to drive the sisters around town--in their own car--- became an ongoing dilemma. 

Older-sister had never learned to drive and now—younger-sister was blind. Although the sisters maintained their charming ways, their elegant appearances, and their concern for others, public buses just weren't the "accepted" mode of travel for classic ladies while taxis were simple-- too expensive. Southern women almost-always appear delicate on the outside but inside-- they are notorious for being Strong As Sin. The Woodfield sisters absolutely fit that description.   Never to be under-estimated, the sisters decided that transportation should not be a problem. They were convinced "where there's a will, there's a way."

One afternoon, my father was in the front yard, trimming his rose bushes when he heard the roar of an old car rounding the corner at a high rate of speed. He looked up to see a vintage Buick racing into our driveway--completely out of control.   Daddy yelled STOP!!!!---just in the nick of time!  With a loud screech, the brakes locked and the driver brought the car to a shuddering halt-- just inches from the side of our house.

Before Daddy could reach the car to see if anyone was hurt, the driver's window lowered and younger-Sister Woodfield greeted my father with a big smile, a loving hello, and a loaf of banana nut bread. Imagine Daddy's surprise when he learned that younger-Sister Woodfield--totally blind--- had driven the Buick from her house-- all the way across town--to our house!

It seems the sisters had been practicing for weeks to co-ordinate their new driving technique. Although younger-sister was blind, she still felt "quite at home" behind the wheel.  So--- older-sister became the co-pilot, directing younger-sister as to when to stop--to turn--to move farther away from parked cars--to speed up or slow down and--when to avoid hitting the curb. Older-sister was very excited as she explained how the two of them were able to drive the car—together-- with great success. She said they'd always worked well together and now---they were an outstanding driving team.

Older-sister thought they should share their dual driving discovery with Arkansas's School for the Blind.  She explained that her ability to name streets and sense distances worked perfectly to guide younger-sister as she "drove" across town.  She described a typical trip in the car--like this:  "Sister, we're on seventeenth street, just about a-half a block from Cherry Street so start slowing down.  Remember, Johnny always parks his car close to that fire plug in front of the Triplett home-- on the right—so, watch out.  Okay--Hit the brake NOW-- sister! STOP Completely!    Okay, there aren't any cars coming either way so now, sister--step on the gas!"

After that scary incident, my father insisted on "adopting" the Woodfield sisters so they would never drive again. In fact, he helped them find a buyer for the old Buick and they made a little money. From that day forward, someone in our family was always available to chauffeur the sisters where-ever they needed to go.  They were now "part of our family."

In addition, my Father discouraged the sisters from introducing their dual driving technique to the State's Blind School since neither of them had ever had a driver's license.