Grandson’s song honors Mr. Lee, the wagon man

Neighbor Grover sez be careful reading the fine print, because there’s no way you’re going to like it.

Ronnie Caywood, local singer/ songwriter/guitarist, has written a new song and it was a labor of love.

It’s called “Grandpa’s Wagon” and it’s about his grandfather Lee Caywood, a Talbot Ridge farmer who drove a wagon pulled by two mules for his transportation to and from Rockdale, almost until his death at age 92 in 1981.

Mr. Lee, as we all called him, was virtually the last of a vanishing breed, a family farmer who produced his own pork, beef, fruit and vegetables—and shared a lot of it.

He paid for his subscription to The Reporter with home-grown vegetables, a practice that was common when my grandfather, John Esten Cooke, ran this paper from 1911 to 1936. But Mr. Lee continued to bring groceries to my father, W.H. Cooke, at this office, until Mr. Lee’s final days.

“Mr. Lee” and his team and (below) with an arm load of walking sticks he cut from sumac on his 71-acre family farm. “Mr. Lee” and his team and (below) with an arm load of walking sticks he cut from sumac on his 71-acre family farm. In his last few years, he was driven to town by daughter Ella when the mule team was too much to manage. But I, and others here, remember Mr. Lee’s wagon fondly.

Ronnie rememberd how his grandad “loved kids of all colors and let them ride in his wagon.” Indeed, several generations of Rockdale children were thrilled with those rides.

Mr. Lee also used that wagon to bring a load of Christmas trees to town every December. He cut the trees himself, piled ‘em high in the bed, and delighted in giving them away to many families.

That’s a sof t side. Mr. Lee was also tough as nails. Ronnie recalled: “Grandpa was bitten twice that I know of by copperheads and never went to the doctor; just used coal oil.”

Another of Ronnie’s memories: “Grandpa used to plow Rev. David Erskine’s (Sarah Cleveland’s father) garden. After that job, they’d enjoy a beer or two together. Grandpa couldn’t get over how a preacher would drink beer.” Ronnie and I agreed that Mr. Lee apparently didn’t understand a lot about Episcopalians.

Christmas trees, fruit and veggies weren’t the only things Mr. Lee liked to share. In the photo at right, he’s holding an arm load of walking sticks that he cut from sumac sprouts, the roots forming the handles. He’d bring them to town and give them away.

“L ot sa’ folk s need a good steadying stick,” was his quote accompanying the photo that appeared in The Reporter in 1976.

Mr. Lee’s love of sharing, his friends and family all believe, is what kept his keen eyes twinkling so many years.

Art by Christian Gonzales, a 2010 Rockdale High graduate. Art by Christian Gonzales, a 2010 Rockdale High graduate. Ronnie gave me what he calls a “rough CD” of his “Grandpa’s Wagon.” Sounds good and catchy to me, a nice tribute to a great old man I was privileged to know.

Ronnie said he’s waiting to have it mixed and mastered, but you can contact him or Millie at home for a copy until he gets the project finished: rctex6708@sbcglobal. net

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