Writer’s note: The following children’s story tells a very grown-up tale. Sonny Faulkner says he has faced being almost blind by “accepting what he can do and not worrying about the rest.” He is rewarded by people being amazed at his work. He smiled and said, “I tell them all I have is time. His story is true. The man who uses the stick is my husband, E. J.
A walking stick was brought to a town called Cleburne. A man signed his name to a list that told how much he would pay for it. It was called a silent auction, and his bid won. The money helped others. Soon the stick was seen, tapping along sidewalks and through buildings, held by a man who admired its appearance and its use.
Strangers would stop the man and ask about the walking stick. Who made it? What kind of wood is it made from? The man didn’t know.
The man and his wife wondered about that and wanted to meet the man who made the walking stick. She planned to write about him in a story for the newspaper. They had heard that the man was almost blind. And yet---how could he create such a work of art?
People helped the couple locate the walking stick maker. They went to see him and found that he will soon be 86 years old.
They learned many things about the man. Sonny Faulkner was his name. He was born in Pritchard, Oklahoma, one of ten children born to Robert and Annie Faulkner. His father was a cotton sharecropper, meaning he did not own the farm but did the work and was paid part of the money made from the crop. Sonny had to work in the fields and picked a lot of cotton. He had friends even though he went to three different schools in first grade because his family moved a lot. He did not get angry easily.
When Sonny was 8, he and his family moved near Celina, Texas. He loved to stay busy. One day he used his pocket knife to cut a soft, white rock to look like a cowboy boot. He was proud of the way it looked. He knew not everyone could do that.
When Sonny was 16, he and his family moved to Venus, Texas. In 1953, during the Korean War, he was drafted by the government into the U. S. Army and was stationed in England. He was a squad leader and provided protection for the U. S. Air Force.
When he came home he went roller skating in Cleburne one night and met his wife-to-be: Judy Paddy of Cleburne. They will be married 58 years soon. Sonny and Judy have five children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren now.
Sonny worked a few different places but made his career at General Dynamics, building airplanes. He retired in 1993, because he could no longer see well because of a disease called glaucoma.
Judy and Sonny lived in Venus many years, but now they live with their daughter and her family in Midlothian.
He began to make walking sticks after he had to stay at home a lot. He has many different kinds of sticks. Some have a golf ball on top; one looks like a hammer and one is sort of famous. His friend, Robert Shaw, told the couple that the stick with real horseshoes on top with a Texas seal beneath it is called the International Walking Stick.
They didn’t understand that and asked him to explain.
Shaw said, “Sonny and Judy are my friends. I had the horseshoe walking stick in my office when a group of people from Ukraine came to visit. I worked in a prison and the visitors were all listening to someone speaking. All but one person----their Director of Security was doing something else. He kept looking at the walking stick, rubbing the smooth wood. Someone said it was the man’s birthday. I thought about it and took the walking stick and gave it to the man as a birthday gift from Texas. He was so proud of it! He admired Texas very much. So we said it was an internationally famous walking stick. Later he went to his car and gave me a present from his country.”
Sonny said it takes from two to three weeks of steady work to make a walking stick like the man from Cleburne has. He said he has made and sold about 400 them---all different kinds. He looks for wood he can use. His neighbor had some wood left over from building some closets. The wood was called a dowel and was used to hang clothes on. Sonny asked if he could have the wood if the builder was just going to throw it away. He used that wood to make walking sticks. Sometimes his grandson brings him materials that he finds that he knows his grandfather can use.
A man in San Antonio who owns an antique store has bought many of Sonny’s sticks. He buys several and brings them out one at a time to sell them, he said. He stopped at a service station in Venus and liked a walking stick in the owner’s office. He asked who made it and was told to go across the street to Sonny’s home where he made the sticks in a special room added to the back of his house.
Sonny’s friend said that the maker had given away many walking sticks to raise money to help other people, too. He just doesn’t talk about that.
“What kind of wood is my twisted walking stick made from?” the visitor asked the maker. After Sonny felt of it carefully and looked at it as best he could, he smiled and said, “Why, that’s cedar. I made that one from a Christmas tree!”
How special is that? The man was glad and liked his stick even better than before.
Larue Barnes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.