Another old war horse from my youth passes away. When I was 21, I was enamored with getting out into the world, meeting new people and having new experiences. Warsaw, Virginia was in my rear view mirror, and I hardly gave it a second thought. I have met hundreds, perhaps thousands of people who I admire, but of this venerable throng, the Warsaw and Northern Neck men, although a minority in numbers, are on the very top of the heap. As I get older, I realize how fortunate I was to be a witness to their humility, strength of character, Christian ethics and manly virtues. Mr. Wright embodied all of these virtues. He was extremely talented and could have done anything he wanted to or lived any where in the world he wanted. He chose to come back home to Warsaw. He raised a great family and built a huge and successful business. He was a strappin hoss of a man, but despite all of his accomplishments, he was humble and exceedingly polite and well mannered. To this day, I can still hear the old fashion, slow southern lilt in his voice. When he would call his son, my friend Morgan, the sound was….” MOE…….(long syllable)….., gun.” It would take about 4 seconds. Mrs. Wright ( Gladys) was from Southampton County, her voice had the clear, slow and rich ring of a Eudora Welty character. Together, the harmony of their voices evoke warm and sentimental memories of a time and place that stirs nostalgically, deep within me. Goodness, graciousness, comfort, loyalty, kindness are a few of the feelings that rise to my consciousness.
I used to play sand lot football in their yard almost every day after school. When my mother was late picking me up ( we lived out in the country), the Wrights would feed me. When I was I3, Mr. Wright was senior Warden of St. John’s Church, and hired me to cut the grass and trim the tombstones. Later, when I was 16, he hired me to work at Wood Preservers. Of all the fancy schooling I have received both in the US and overseas, the best education I ever received was working for Mr. Wright at Wood Preservers. Because I wanted his respect, I worked my ass off, working the automatic saw, stacking lumber, bagging bark, handling creosote railroad ties, etc. I wanted to prove that I could be a HOSS like Mr. Wright. He rewarded me by giving me raises, having me be a foreman of work crews, allowing me to work all the overtime I could and allowing me to drive all the forklifts, frontend loaders, big trucks, etc. It was really heady stuff for an accomplished businessman to treat a 16 year old like an adult and to give me adult responsibilities. I never wanted to let Mr. Wright down, and what he gave me in return was the confidence and empowerment to feel like I could do anything. I still feel this way and I owe it to Mr. Wright, a really, really good man.