This year, I’m going to memorialize another great father, my late father-in-law, Joel Clifford Bollinger, known all his life as Jay or J.C.
The reason he was known by the initial is somewhat amusing. Jay was an identical twin. His brother was Horace Paschal Bollinger, thus was known as H or H.P. As the youngest two of seven children, five of them boys, it was perhaps easier for their parents and siblings to alphabetize them.
It was never difficult for me to tell them apart, but that was not necessarily so for many people.
That produced some truly unforgettable moments over the years.
Our sons, Chris and Weston, absolutely adored their “Papaw.” And, Jay was a particularly doting grandfather for both of them, as well as for his only granddaughter, Claire, daughter of Julie’s sister, Becky.
PERHAPS the crown jewel moment was when Chris, perhaps two, saw Jay’s identical twin H for the first time. His eyes became huge as he swiveled his head back and forth between the two, then exclaimed with great delight: “Two Papaws!!!”
Papaw Jay and Mamaw Charlotte retired early from the Baytown schools and bought 2.5 acres on the north side of Cypress Creek in Wimberley. There was a century-old 2-room stone house on the property and in which they set up something we called sort of “camping out” housekeeping.
THEY ALSO bought eight pre-fabricated cabins, set them up on the property and hooked up water, electricity and sewage and rented out the cabins. Summer was peak season and the cabins rented by the day or week. It was a family-oriented place and kids loved swimming, canoeing and tubing in the icy-cold waters of Cypress Creek in the Texas Hill Country.
And, it was summertime heaven on earth for Chris and Weston.
In the fall, winter and early spring months — a period of time that coincides with fall and spring semesters for schools — the cabins were usually rented to students at Southwest Texas State College (now Texas State University) in nearby San Marcos.
The 11th Commandment for our family in those days — decreed by Mamaw and Papaw, implored by Chris and Weston and restfully (for a while) enjoyed by Julie and me — three months of “Wimberley Camp” for the boys.
We grabbed as much summer time at creek side ourselves as possible.
With a weekly newspaper editing and publishing schedule that often stretched to 70-80 hours, such a respite was divine intervention for Julie and me.
ON THE Bollinger porch, 40 feet from the rushing waters in rocky Cypress Creek, was a bench swing where I usually anchored myself with a book and something cool to drink. Being tired and hearing the soothing rush of that water, I was often in lullaby land before finishing a page in the book. Later, the in-laws gave me a bench swing of my own with the words engraved on the top board of the backrest: “Willis’ Exercise Machine.” Oh, well, I do have the strongest ankles in town.
Occasionally, Jay and I would walk to the town square, just for exercise. A couple of houses away, those neighbors had two huge Doberman dogs. On my first stroll down the lane with Jay, the dogs came galloping and growling toward us. Then, suddenly when they were about 40-50 feet away, they yelped and began to run back toward their house.
“What happened?” a fearful but relieved me said.
“They know me as ‘Old Man with Rock’,” Jay said with just a hint of a smile. I was glad and relieved. My arm wasn’t that accurate or that strong. Coach Jay’s obviously was.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.