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Story Archives: Road will bend but will never end
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|Road will bend but will never end|
West Monroe's many distinguished residents include someone particularly dear to me. I could tell you stories about this person all day, but I'll just mention one.
When I was still a pretty small boy growing up on the edge of town, this person offered to take me on a hike. At that time the piney hills and hardwood bottoms covered much more land than they do today, before the housing developments chiseled their way into the North Louisiana forests.
We threw a few sandwiches and a piece of fruit or two into a small bag. Walking from a yard into the thick forest, I imagined we could wind up somewhere as exotic as India, so I was glad for the hearty provisions in our pack.
My two older sisters also joined the expedition, helping look out for the best path to take, since we didn't have the luxury of a clearly marked trail. The initiator of the hike bravely moved snaky-looking vines aside and kept a sharp eye open for real snakes hiding out in the midst of the thick underbrush.
Eventually we arrived at the end of our journey, a barbed-wire fence on the edge of a large grassy field. Our hike leader helped us unpack the hastily made sandwiches. They tasted better in the woods than they could have ever tasted at the kitchen table. We dined like David Livingstone in the heart of a mysterious Africa then turned around and tromped back through the newly blazed trail to our house. I thanked and admired this person for the adventure of life … and I still do.
You may have already guessed of whom I speak. He is my father, who just celebrated a healthy 90th birthday with a joyful reception at Cypress Street Church of God. The youngest son of an — may I say — un-wealthy Louisiana farmer, Darvis "Bill" Coody arrived May 3 in a world that had ended the First World War just a year earlier.
Even before the Great Depression, he and his brothers came to know the meaning of hardship and suffering. I must confess, my generation and the generation of my own five sons know little of life where you consider a big piece of corn bread and large pot of black-eye peas a gourmet meal.
But my father and his contemporaries survived and passed through malnutrition and lethal threats of Imperial Japan and Nazi German with dignity and eventually success, earning renown as the "Greatest Generation."
As great as those accomplishments are, I consider him great for other things as well. I consider him great for getting hundreds of "bugs" out of the paper mill's massive computers in the 60's and 70's, for helping my mother take a lively family to church every Sunday and Wednesday, for helping build a lovely church sanctuary, for being married 59 years, for raising a garden in his retirement, for bouncing back from by-pass surgery at 85, and for loving a quiver-full of grandkids. A man like this is the backbone of a good community.
Maybe I'm biased, but in international travels that have taken me much farther away from home than that memorable boyhood hike, I have met few people like my father. Lives like his are worth emulating, stories like his are worth telling, with the hope that people will discover a new perspective on life compelling them to reach higher and go further in faithfully serving others.
I think my father has sought to center himself not on himself and he has reaped the rewards, something like the scripture that says, "if we lose our life, we will find it." Now as he turns 90, we wish him Happy Birthday, many more days under his tall pine trees, and the confidence that while the road will sometimes bend, it will never end.
Ron Coody, a West Monroe native, is a Ph.D. candidate in Intercultural Studies at Concordia Seminary. From 1993-1998, he lived and worked in Kazakstan doing environmental work. Since 2002, Mr. Coody and his family have resided in Istanbul, Turkey.