To a child the status quo is a forever deal.
It never occurred to the “little me” that my world could exist without Pic Goare. James Pickett Goare was born in 1921, named for the doctor who delivered him: Dr. Pickett.
He was ripe for WWII and inducted into the Army in October of 1942. He served in Africa, as a medic, I think.
Pic was in his upper twenties when I became aware of him. He was always hanging around, having a Coke at the drug store, chatting at the newspaper office, or meeting a train.
Decades before there was FedEx, small packages moved by rail. Pic was the Railway Express agent in Richland, Ga., and ran the office with help from his father. It was a perfect career for Pic because he loved visiting with people and wandering town with a package under his arm wasn’t work to him.
Pic was the “town character,” a freewheeling, lighthearted, passive iconoclast. Every kid in town knew him, admired him and viewed Pic as a kid in a six-foot body. He showed up with a baby flying squirrel in his shirt pocket or a horned toad keeping warm under the shirt, or both. He kept wild animals in cages as pets or he might open the cages up and turn them all lose.
As much as he liked all animals, he loved squirrels. I believe this is where I developed a taste for fried squirrel.
Pic became a “church man” where my father was pastor. He organized squirrel hunts and dinners. One fall night the young adults of the church held a “hobo party” and a story began that became a local legend. Couples came to a small bonfire, each emptying a contribution into a pot of “hobo stew.”
Pic’s contribution was discovered as one woman found dog food cans lying in the pile. No, there was no dog food in the stew, just cans in the pile, but the discovery led to the tall, quiet, shy guy grinning at the raucous scene he created. The story of the “hobo stew” was told for decades.
He was as much a part of the local Christmas season as a moving object from the north. While parents worked or children slept, he assembled bicycles and wagons. He arranged electric trains, stuffed hanging stockings, dressed dolls.
Christmas morning he recirculated “amazed” at what Santa had brought, setting up targets for boys with new air rifles, drinking imaginary tea with little girls, giving bicycle riding lessons. Children all over town knew and felt comfortable with Pic.
He ran a motel south of town, worked at the post office, was a “sociable recluse.” He never married, left no children. The town was left poorer and less interesting when Pic Goare died in 1969, a young 47. I visit his grave when in town and say a prayer of thanks for having known this remarkable common man.
I haven’t experienced Christmas since without thinking of him.
Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at email@example.com.