To attempt to paint a portrait of Mr. Leo Whicker, born September 3, 1927, is like trying to harness (with paint and paper) the wisdom of years and experience, coupled with an effortless joy that is surely hard-won through life’s ups and downs. I have had the privilege of getting to know Mr. Whicker through numerous conversations with him over the past 8 years. I think I could write a book about him. Here are a few things I have learned:
The land on which he lives and farms (and which is directly next door to my house and neighborhood), was his grandfather’s land. At some point, his grandfather sold the land to send a son to law school. And then, at some point after that, Mr. Whicker (pictured above) bought the land back. This land encompasses acres and acres and is sprawled in many directions throughout the southern part of Kernersville, in an area known as Sedge Garden.
Mr. Whicker and his wife Martha, had a son and daughter. Up the hill from where I live, is a small house (now a rental home) where he and his family started out. As the children grew, he built a larger home for them just yards away, perched on a small rise in the land. You can see the house here in the charcoal, just a bit of the porch, complete with rocking chairs.
Mr. Whicker’s wife Martha died young, of cancer. When he speaks of her, you can hear a love and affection for her that leaves you aching and thinking he must still ache and miss his dear wife. Both his son and daughter live in Kernersville and have families of their own. Mr. Whicker is blessed with grandchildren and extended family who live in the area.
In fact, as I’ve been able to gather from Mrs. Gail Smith Love, another neighbor whom I’ve had the privilege of getting to know, Mr. Whicker is considered an Uncle to many from the Smith clan. She recounts that growing up with Smith land and farms right next to Whicker land, the two families’ children all called the other dads “Uncle”. So he was Uncle Leo to her and many others.
Mr. Whicker has memories of his grandmother telling him that soldiers used to hide out in caves on their land during the Civil War. I have a feeling if I could sit for a while with him, I’d hear many stories of historical interest that are tucked away in Mr. Whicker’s vibrant mind.
Mr. Whicker has many barns beside his home. The barn you see here, and in the above charcoal, can be seen from the road, Silver Dapple Lane. It stores his baled hay on one side, and keeps farm equipment on the other. You can see a glimpse into the back side of this particular barn in the above portrait of him. Sitting atop the tractors and equipment are various, huge stuffed animals, such as Kermit the Frog (seen above) and Scooby Doo. These are here, says Mr. Whicker, to chase away the birds. Apparently, birds have a bad habit of nesting in the tractor’s engines. And when he goes to start one of these tractors, the poor birds are lost, and they can cause damage to the equipment. I wish you could’ve seen the twinkle in his eye as he explained why he had these unexpected furry friends in the barn!
That twinkle in his eye is rooted in his faith. Leo Whicker is a faithful congregant at Sedge Garden Chapel, just a stone’s throw from his home and farm. He is, and I suspect has been for most of his life, devoted to worshipping his Creator with the folks in this small and humble church. Hardly a conversation goes by without him asking me to pray for something on his mind, after inquiring how my husband and children are doing.
There is so much more I could write here. The description in this post is merely the tip of the iceberg. Talking with Mr. Whicker (as with other persons of mature years), makes me think I’m in the presence of a stately oak tree. That tree has seen many years, all kinds of weather, lots of history. It has withstood storms, change, seasons, “progress”. It has been rooted in something far more enduring than this world, and its roots are deep and far-reaching. At first you may only see a trunk and its weathered bark. But as you get to know the tree, the expanse of the branches and canopy, the gnarled sections leading out to youthful buds and leaves, you realize there is something grand going on here which is very difficult to describe, much less to paint.
Mr. Whicker would never think of himself in this grand manner. He was indeed a bit reticent about having his picture taken so that I could create a portrait (or two) of him. I just feel that his story needs to be remembered, and that his family would enjoy a painted portrait.
He is indeed, a gentleman farmer.