I first met W.C. when I was five years old. I was one of those inquisitive, irritating, "'whatcha' doing" type of kids. W.C. had come by the house in the fall of 1963 to help a friend of his rebuild the wooden stairs that led to our front porch. And so, as he was hammering away, I walked over to him and asked, "What are you doing?" And with these words, we started a lifelong friendship.
I grew up in a single parent household, led by a hardworking, no-nonsense, mother. And while she kept a tight rein on all of her children, she also recognized that having three boys, required they have strong male influences in their lives. So, when I struck up my friendship with W.C. she encouraged it.
W.C. was good at a lot of things. But he was absolutely exceptional with auto mechanics and barbecue. He could listen to a car run and tell you a litany of things that was wrong with it. I spent many summer days working on cars and trucks in his yard. The photo accompanying this article doesn't depict W.C. He was a bit elusive back in the day when I had my camera around. No, this photo is one of a cousin of mine, driving her brand new 1959 Cadillac. But I chose it, because W.C. loved G.M. vehicles. And a 1959 Cadillac would actually get him to smile.
He also loved to barbecue. And I loved to eat it. Those long days of working underneath a car, in the hot sun, typically ended with a nice cool drink and a hot plate of W.C.'s finely grilled ribs. It was our reward for a hard day's work. Some people have a cooking touch. When it came to burning meat over an open flame, W.C. was among the masters. And fortunately for me, just by hanging around him, some of his auto mechanic and culinary skills rubbed off, making me the beneficiary of two assets that would serve me well in my life.
I'll never forget him. His passing came as a shock, after having gone into the hospital for what was later explained to me as a routine procedure. He was still young, in his mid sixties. I never got a chance to say goodbye. Word of his death reached a few days after his funeral. But I will never forget all the things that he taught me. I still use those skills in my daily life.
And so when I get into a car and listen for something, for a noise, for a clink or a clank, or a sputter or a spit that just doesn't seem right, I am, in a way, paying tribute to this wonderful man. Because really, it was my good fortune, that W.C. had such awesome faults.