I was born on December 20th 1961 in Columbia SC where my dad was stationed at Ft Jackson. I was raised in a combination of places, Candler NC, Oxford NC and Columbia SC . My mothers side of the family was from Candler and my dads side of the family lived outside Oxford. Both sets of my grandparents were farmers as were most of my uncles and everyone had a garden and raised animals, some for food some were for our enjoyment. And some were raised to resale to help support the family.
Candler is very hilly and my grandparents Bryan lee and Annie May had a several acres that were flat and grew tobacco, My grandfather also worked for the local Mill American Enka and retired after 50 years of service. I remember them and their neighbor going to Florida each December and their stories about fishing from the pier everyday and bringing us back fresh oranges from Florida for christmas. My Grandfather (mothers side) was a plant maintenance man and was all the time fixing things for people around there house. He also had a bus that my uncle drove and picked up everyone from the area to take them to the mill. It was early car pooling then I guess, as a lot of people were employed at the mill. I would guess at several thousand from its size and having rode with them on the bus to work several times and waiting for their shift to get over, but that was a long time ago and before vietnam and gas shortages of the Carter years. (President Carter). During Vietnam my parents got a mobile home and my mom with my 2 brothers and 2 sisters lived in my grandparents yard. I worked the tobacco - helping to do whatever around the farm that needed to be done. weeding the fields, shelling beans. cleaning animals that were for food, catching food -Fishing. I do not remember ever wanting for anything even though by todays standards my grandparents were low income. My uncles raised tomatoes also, probably 2 acres worth and we helped with them including getting the truck ready to go to the market to sell them right after they were picked. we had to drive an hour+ to the tomato processing facility. I never got paid in money for what I did but my uncles did what I think was better looking back on it now- even though I truly liked it then also. They took us fishing, camping, and sometimes hunting. They did buy us some fishing equipment but we also had free use of everything they had. These fishing trips were our pay but they were also food gathering excursions. Crappie and trout were served regularly at my grandmothers table. They had a pond but we did not try to catch everything out of it, as the pond was probably only 75 feet in diameter and made by my grandfather and uncles and stocked by them. They took us to Mt. Pigs Baptist church every sunday for sunday school and service and during one of the vacation bible studies I was saved. My oldest uncle died from cancer, his next brother fell out the top of a tobacco barn and broke his back. and the next uncle got a finger removed while loading a horse on a trailer.
My fathers side of the family - he had 7 bothers and 1 sister and they grew up on a large farm outside Oxford. My Family there were from the Statesville NC area originally (Daniel Boone country) and my grandfather had bought the land when the government closed Camp Butner In 1946 (per wikipedia). Our farm and our neighbors farm were part of the firing ranges the troops used for training, and growing up I remember playing in ( they are probably still there ) machine gun pits or concrete bunkers out in the middle of some of the fields and in the woods. My grandfather Elmer Cecil and his wife Mable had 350 acre farm and the neighbors (The Jones) had several 1000's of acres. There was a small lake that was made after the mining companies left- and a dozen or ponds within walking distance. I remember riding the tractor and dynamite going off and seeing rocks flying above the trees. My grandfather had a small country store (E.C.Hilton's) that my aunt ran after he got too old. He also farmed and raised animals and had a sawmill that most of my uncles worked at and that the local prison brought inmates to work at. I was able to riding a pony when I was 4 years old and was my grandfathers chaffeur for his truck not much after that. He would only let me go walking speed and if I got going to fast he would swat my leg with his cane. My grandfather got diabetes and the doctors took one leg and then the other and for a summer- our last summer, I was his orderly along with my grandmother and uncle who was a nurse. -I was a big strapping teenager at this time. He was not a small man himself. I would help dress him and push him around in his wheelchair and carry him and load him in his truck and drive him around the farm- all the farm, through the fields and anywhere he wanted to go. Of course I did not have a drivers license yet but that didn't matter, . He deteriorated in his mental capacity to where he was more like a child the longer he was around. One of the last times we went out he had me get him out of the truck to go to the bathroom after we had an argument about why he could not stand up on his stumps to go pee. He won and I let him try and it made me cry to have to pick him up and put him back in the truck.
I can not remember but a few times when my parents attended church and only a few on my uncles attending church, mostly funerals. local church came by our house and asked if they could take us kids to church on the bus and my parents agreed. I went to a revival with one of the men at a parent church. I raised my hand and was baptized again. We moved some before my dad retired from the military but after he retired he worked for the post office some and hurt his knee and was unable to work a regular job then. My mom worked at some of the plants around Dentsville SC and as I got to be high school age I worked and contributed to the family with my money also. There were times I remember burning a chair or two in the winter to keep warm. We moved around because we didn't have money for a permanent type home and I was never told, but I believe their was some family unhappiness between my parents and my grandparents. I remember living in 5 different houses on 2 blocks in the same neighborhood growing up. I was injured playing football in high school and was told if I played again I would be put in a wheelchair, there was not much left of my knee from the injury, my mom informed me my sister had been abused by one of my cousins when we were on a trip back from the hospital physical therapy one day, I could tell she was really hurt but I did not know what to do about it, just that I was mad at my cousin for what he had done. My brothers and my sister were living with my parents and staying with my aunts and uncles at the time. This same cousin had also tried to abuse me also. I was not attending church or thinking about God during this time. During my senior year I dated the school secretaries Daughter who was a substitute teacher for the school at the time, and moved in with their family when I graduated. There family seemed so ideal at the time. I stayed with them as a house guest for the summer until it was time to go to Clemson. She wrote me a letter saying she did't want to see me again and this sent me into a depression that I ended up going to the school doctor for medication. she later told me it was so I would go off to school, but I was devastated at that point. I was working and going to school and I had a roommate from high school that was also going to Clemson. My school work suffered and I dropped out when I did not do well in chemistry. I focused more on work as it was a new challenge and made friends with the guys I worked with. We were going to bars and partying all night ( was 18 at the time) I met more people that liked to party and thats what I did for the next 4 years. I worked to party. I did manage to buy a house but turned it into a party house also. My parents followed me to Clemson and tried to bring me back home a couple of times-but i just kept away. All my grandparents died during this time I believe. I did move home after 4 years and spending the day with the local police dept.
I did move home after that 4 years for a short time, it was into a small house that had been the tenant farmers home when I was growing up there. I had transferred to durham with Golden Corral at the time an that is where I met my wife Wendi. She returned a steak that the customer had wanted burned and I gave her hard time over it because i did not cook bad steaks. I met her family and we started dating, I spent a day with her and fell asleep going home again. ( I recall going asleep 2 other times on the highway when I was at Clemson) on Hwy 50 between raleigh and Creedmore. I am not exactly sure what happened but I remember waking up off the road about to hit a mailbox and swerving and loosing control, I hit the embankment twice from what the skid marks and dents in the dirt looked like. I had crawled out of the passenger side floor , where there was a huge dent in the passengers door where I had hit it and pushed it out with my back from the impact. It was about 1:00am and no-one was around , the house I wrecked in front of they would not answer the door. eventually a highway patrolman stopped and helped. I informed wendi the next day and she drove the hour plus to come see me when I had trouble moving because of my back being sore. This was probably in July and we were married in November. After the wreck her dad bought me a car, a Buick Electra 225. and helped get me a new job at the nuclear power plant with his neighbor. On our wedding day right after the wedding the brakes went out on the electra. Our hotel room was trashed after after we borrowed her dads car to get there, the second room we were given was also trashed, the third time we were given the suite on the top floor. The next day we went back to her parents and repaired the brakes on the electra with her dad and one his friends. We got a mobile home near her parents and I started going to church with them, the pastor took me and started doing a bible study with me, as did several of the men that were going to the churches we were attending thru the years as we got older. We also made friends with families we are still friends with even though they are countries away now. We grew up and had children- 3 and I went into business with a guy from church. this did not work out and I ending up getting a job at Dorothea Dix where a nurse there convinced me to go to nurses school. I did, and worked 2 jobs and went to school full time and was hardly home. After I graduated our 4th son was due to be born, we had been checked into our room at the hospital and they had placed the monitors on Wendi to check the baby and everything was fine. They left to go deliver another baby and after awhile I noticed the babies heart rate was rapidly decreasing. I called for help and they did an emergency c-section. and we had a boy. We would later find out that this lack of blood/oxygen caused some learning issues but he was alive. The state eventually closed the unit I was woking on at Dorothea Dix and I transferred to the prison system where I have been since. We had talked about adopting since we first got married on and off for awhile and started to look more seriously at it. We applied for several kids that were available in other states and were looking at overseas adoption when we were contacted about 2 sisters that were available right away, we said we wanted them and proceeded with the adoption. We were now a family of 8 and everything is a little more complicated like starting all over again. Although I would not hesitate to do it again.
I have been blessed all my life, 2 sets of grandparents that wanted me to go to church, aunts that wanted me to be saved and took me to vacation bible study, a stranger that wanted to take us to church when my parents didn't. The Lord drew me to him, I turned away from him during my young adult life, He protected me from making the wrong decisions when I moved in with my girlfriends family. He accepted me when she rejected me. He protected me when I fell asleep at the wheel and didn't kill anyone. He protected me from trying to hurt the police officer that was doing his job. He forgave me when I asked him to sitting in the jail. He brought me back to him through my wife and her parents. He sheltered me in all the storms and rough times since being married. He has provided for us when we were in need. I have learned to trust Him and that He knows best for me even when I don't know what is going to happen. I have to just put my trust in Him and know that he in charge, This gives me a peace and patience to get through things even though they may be difficult. Trials are going to come and things are going to happen if you would like peace through those trials you should trust in Jesus also.