By Sharon Stevens

You’ll never guess what I was doing on Good Friday this year.

For starters, I dropped by Stevens Flowers to pick up a special gift to celebrate a family birthday, a wedding, and a new birth, all in the same family. Stepping out the door I noticed a feather on the sidewalk and knew I was on the right path. Next I stopped by Haley’s Printing, then to Johnston’s Hardware for nails, and then I continued on my journey on past the Palace Coffee House. Another stop was a purchase of the 100-year issue of the Canyon News. Before entering I read the Historical marker about the Warwick family, such a legacy for our town. Round and round I went traveling the entire courthouse square taking pictures of every business and each memory. My final stop was at the statue of the World War I Doughboy to pay my respects, and to read the names on the plaque for remembrance. This is the very least I can do.  Even with the shadowing trees gone that shaded the warrior from the sun, he still stands ever at the ready for whatever battle calls him to arms.

After returning to my place of origin, and before stepping back into my car, I stopped once again at Stevens Flowers and photographed the feather still resting in front of the store on the sidewalk, my heart coming full circle once again.

And the nails…at the beginning of my journey I walked in to Johnston’s Hardware and was greeted by Curt Johnston as always. Even though my husband had been by several times this was the first time I had been in the store since it was remodeled. This was beautiful! Bringing back the tin ceilings showcased all those items found at any local hardware store, but the silver reflecting from above brightened even the dreariest tool.

But my mission was all about the nails.

Curt asked me which kind I needed and what size or for what project. How could I explain to him that I had no clue?

As a writer I wanted the nails to represent so many memories to segue into a story. Since it was Good Friday of course this would connect to the Crucifixion of Christ, but this wasn’t my main focus. I had a thought in my mind that reminded me of a sweet memory shared with me about nails at the family Grove Hill Methodist Church in Leonard Texas. There was another story in my mind about an American Flag I found nailed to the wall in an abandoned house, the sole purpose of this beautiful symbol used only to hide illegal activity. On another vein I also wanted to honor my husband, patiently waiting on me at our own hometown business, the Buffalo Bookstore. He deserved a precious story about his life as a craftsman, and all the things he had built with his own hands over the years. And I could never forget Joseph as a carpenter, and his Son, Jesus, learning the trade of his Father.

There was no way I could give a description or reasoning OR explanation for this piece of hardware so Curt could direct me further. “For want of a nail…” Any piece of steel would do as long as the word, “nail” was listed on the box. I needed something so tangible and physical that it would inspire every sentence, every thought. I knew how Nandy Ekle felt with her Wordsmithsix blog, “The Grail” about her Stephen King cup. If I just had the perfect nail I knew I could create any masterpiece of my choosing. Pain or joy would be at my fingertips, straight through to my soul, exuding my thoughts from pen to paper.

Quickly I chose from the display loaded with every length and penny. Under Curt’s guiding but watchful eye I didn’t want to close my eyes and pick. He probably thought, no, he knew I was already looney, just kind enough not to say so. I chose quickly and took my purchase up to the front, and paid the price worth every cent. I asked after Curt’s family and told him to tell them hello. Precious people in a hometown business, you can’t get any better than this. When I left the store I continued around the circle back to my car and found the feather again.

How could I ever explain to anyone of the significance of the nail?

This coming Monday is Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah). In researching this blog I read so many quotes and memories. Some I found even related to nails. One was a negative connotation referring to being crooked, another was explaining the beauty of nails, (fingernails) with the lighting of the Sabbath candles. Still another describes the reasoning behind Jewish law only allowing natural materials like plain wood for a coffin so the body can return naturally to earth. Nails could be an item that would impede the process of decomposition.

But I think what hit the nail on the head was the note I came across with the founding of this holiday on April 12, 1951 that signified “Devastation and Heroism Day”.

Since Yom Hashaoh is a relatively new holiday there are no set rules or rituals. What kind of rituals could represent the Holocaust?



by Sharon Stevens

When I started working on my Wordsmith Six blog for this week I knew I wanted to center it around Clyde and Grace Warwick. This wonderful couple will have a historical marker placed in their honor at the site of the Canyon News on May 26, 2012 by Harold and Wanda Root on behalf of the Randall County Historical Commission.

All week I had gone back and forth between the Canyon newspaper, Amarillo Globe News, United Methodist Church, Haley’s Printing, Canyon Public Library, the Randall County Story, and the Internet. I could have asked anyone, and I mean anyone to direct me for research. Lynne Guy, the historian for the Methodist Church could have given me so many leads to pursue. Warren Stricker, Archivist at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum would have given me document after document regarding the Warwick family and their contributions to the museum. At the Cornette Library on the campus of WTAMU I could have pored, literally poured over the bound issues of the Canyon News tomes housed there, and each and every staff member would have pulled related articles from the shelves. The Panhandle Press Association would have dug through their history to enlighten me.

Whew! What a journey this has been.

I realized I couldn’t pull just one memory to share. The Warwicks and the Haley’s were not only the most wonderful people involved in every aspect of our community, but they lived their faith and breathed their dedication. They are buried out at Dreamland Cemetery, but their legacy lives on and will for eternity. When I read old issues of when they were editors of the newspaper the writings shimmer and dance off the printed page, vibrant and alive and filled with the very essence of the journalistic spirit.

And this is the point and the guide of every newspaper and every journalist from time eternal. It is absolutely unreal how many avenues of documentation you can connect with for any direction you care to link. Take “The Randall County Story” written by Mrs. Warwick. After my copy disappeared I had the hardest time finding one to takes its place. Rebecca Harp, Mrs. Warwick’s granddaughter told me they were finally able to make arrangements with the University of North Texas at Denton to digitalize the book to make it available on the internet as a mission of their Portal to Texas History Project. Since then I have checked to verify stories and resources and names and family connections with just a click of my mouse any hour or minute of any given day or night.

One of my favorite people in the book was our neighbor where I was raised. Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Gordon-Cumming had such a wonderful influence on me and touched my life deeply. When she first came to this area she was going to teach art at Goodnight College. Charles and Molly Goodnight invited her out to supper and after visiting with Dr. and Phebe Warner (Panhandle Professional Writers) she took a tour of the JA Ranch with Goodnight. I loved her expression as an artist, and this is a direct quote from The Randall County Story the way it was told to Glenna Wilson.

“I remember so well about the evening meal;” She reminisced. “The way the lemonade looked in the pitcher. There was milk in a pitcher too, homemade light bread, fresh roast beef, honey from their own hives, turnip greens grown in the garden and jelly and preserves from the fruit of their own orchard.”

With any research I could investigate honey, or turnip greens or the Goodnights or lemonade for that matter. In only seconds I could connect with heritage and legacies, family or pioneers. It doesn’t matter, I could, I CAN link and share with ease. The hardest part is to focus and condense, but that will always be my downfall. No matter, I can find a self-help instruction manual for writers. I can’t say I will abide by it, but I can find it.

None of this may be newsworthy to the reader, but then again you never know what will inspire a heart at what moment, or how it may touch their soul. Don’t underestimate the power and insight of those who cherish the written word, and don’t attempt to choose their memories for them, but celebrate their interest and passion.

Please come to the dedication in honor of the Warwicks of the historical marker at the Canyon News office on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 10.00. Celebrate everything related to writing. And if you have an extra moment go across the street and stand on the News mosaic at the threshold of Haley’s Printing, next door to Stevens Flowers. Haley’s will be closed on Saturday, but come back again and make copies and marvel at the legacy that Mike Miller continues to perpetuate as he and his family prints all the newsletters, all the graduation or wedding announcements, and every funeral card for the funeral homes. You will be amazed what a strong and committed Canyon business they are to this day.

In the Randall County Story Grace Warwick once wrote in her Canyon News column, “Around the Town,” she mentioned some of the things in life to which she hoped always to thrill; and in closing she wrote: “And when I can no longer thrill to these, the simple joys that complete my life, then give me patience, God, to bear my cross until the fire that burns within my soul consumes the clay that can no longer feel.”

Sharon Stevens