Our interesting person of this week is John A. McDaniel of the Wildersville community. John Allen McDaniel was born October 24, 1917, the son of Roddy and Ollie Mae Wilson Todd McDaniel. He has one sister, Mary Joe McDaniel Rainey Deere. His brother is Ray McDaniel, father of Dennis Ray McDaniel, currently County Executive of Henderson County. Mr. McDaniel has two half-sisters, Elsie Todd Roberts and Vinnie Todd. Mr. McDaniel is married to the former Irevene Pinkley, daughter of "Big Tom" and Eva Burgess Pinkley. Mr. McDaniel met his wife Irevene while on a date with her sister, at what was then called a "Play Party". This was an occasion at which young people would gather at a building in the community to sing and do folk dances. John Allen and Irevene dated for a while, and on one special night they went to Natchez Trace, to the lodge on Cub Creek, on a double date with Harmon Adams and Adele Burgess. Mrs. McDaniel remembers this was a beautiful evening, with many stars and a big moon, when Mr. McDaniel proposed to her beneath a big tree at the lodge. Because she was just fifteen at the time, Mrs. McDaniel kept him in suspense for two weeks before she said yes! Mr. McDaniel married his lovely wife in a ceremony conducted by the late Priest Pearson on May 13, 1939, while sitting in an old A-Model car in Mr. Pearson's year, with Mr. Pearson's children excitedly peaking out the windows of the house.
Mr. and Mrs. McDaniel have just celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary. Mr. and Mrs. McDaniel have two children, Sammy McDaniel and Martha Sue McDaniel Stanfill. Their son, Sammy, lives in Columbia, Tn., where he is First Vice-President of the Farm Bureau Car Insurance Division. Sammy is married to the former Linda Allen, and they have two children, Laura and Allen. Laura, who will be 27 this July, has a hearing impairment and attend the Knoxville School for the Deaf, where she graduated as Valedictorian of her class.
After graduation, she went to Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tn, and was the first person in the history of Freed-Hardeman to go through school with a sign language interpreter. Laura has taught at the School for the Deaf in Jackson, Tn., and is now working at a computer assignment at the hospital in Jackson. Allen, who will be 18 years old this coming July, is at present in the School for the Deaf in Knoxville. Their daughter, Martha Sue M. Stanfill, recently retired from a teaching career which spanned 33 years. He first five months of teaching were at Brownsville, Tn., but the rest of her career was spent at Beaver School in Henderson Co., where she is lovingly known as "Miss Martha". Martha is married to Don Stanfill, and they have one son, Larry Don, who is 29. Larry Don is married to the former Tamara Horn. When Larry Don was born, it was reported that Mr. McDaniel made the following pronouncement, "he'll never amount to nothing, he won't be worth a dime." This statement was in anticipation of the spoiling that Larry Don was going to receive from all the adults just waiting to love him when he got home from the hospital.
As the years have passed, Larry Don has grown to be Mr. McDaniel's "right hand man", and a frequent comment made now by McDaniel, when something tears up around the farm, is "just wait till Larry Don gets home, he'll fix it." Mr. McDaniel says, "He's helped me out more than anybody has for the last 10 years, when I want something done, he's always there to do it." Larry Don recently asked him, "Daddy John, do you think I might be worth a quarter now?" Mr. McDaniel heartily agreed! Mr. McDaniel is famous in his neighborhood for his gardening skills, and his beautiful, picture-perfect garden.
He has enjoyed working a 2 acre truck-patch garden for the last 10 years, and takes great pride in keeping the garden rows straight and weed-free. He regularly plows the truck-patch with his fifteen-year-old mule "old Ada", who was broken to the patch at the age of one year Mr. McDaniel regularly plants and harvests three complete crops from frost to frost in one season, and some of his biggest sellers to the public are turnip and mustard greens. People from Carroll County and Henderson County count on him for their supply of greens in the spring, and it's not unusual for him to cut 200-300 pounds of greens at one time in the morning, and sell them all before the day is out. Mr. McDaniel also takes great pleasure in growing onions. This past year, during the last of February and early march, he single-handedly set out 65,000 onion bulbs. [He kept up with how many he set out by putting one bulb in his pocket for every 100 he put in the ground per row, and then he counted the rows.]
Later, when the onions had grown to a size about as large as the end of a man's pinky-finger, in a process which involves the entire McDaniel family, the onions were pulled up, the outer layer of skin stripped off, washed on a screen, and put into bunches of 5 onions, with a rubber band at the top and bottom. The onions were taken, in groups of 100 bunches to Big Star, Piggly Wiggly, Sav-A-Lot and local restaurants in Lexington. He credits Woody Stanfill at Piggly Wiggly with getting him started in growing onions. The garden space where the onions grew is now awaiting a sowing of peas. Another treasure in Mr. McDaniel's garden are massive heads of cabbage, some to reach 20 pounds in weight at maturity.
These cabbages are already all spoken for, purchased by one person and all destined to be made into tasty kraut. Mr. McDaniel's main love has always been working the soil. He did, however, work for Guy Walker at the Sale Barn in Lexington, just on Mondays, for 24 years. He began this job one Monday when he was asked by Mr. Walker to fill in because they were short of hands that day. He did so well at the job that he was asked to come back the following week, and then the week after that, and before long he was a regular employee. He served on the Board of Directors of the Feeder Pig Barn until it closed, and served on the Board of the Henderson County Co-Op for two terms.
He attends Wildersville Church of Christ and he was an Elder there for several years. Mr. McDaniel loves to raise and show mules. In past years, he has taken great pride in taking his prize mules to the Mule Day Parade in Columbia, Tn. He had the honor of having Congressman Ed Bryant and his wife to ride in his mule-drawn wagon in the parade, during Mr. Bryant's early campaign days. After Congressman Bryant won his election, he and his wife rode in the Mule Day Parade with Mr. McDaniel for two more years. In gratitude, Congressman Bryant sent Mr. McDaniel an American flag that had flown over the Capital Building in Washington, D.C., along with a picture of himself and a letter of appreciation. During his mule-showing days Mr. McDaniel used to make his own harnesses, and he has won first place prizes on this craft. He also had the experience of taking his mules to a contest at the Fairgrounds in which he won two first place awards and one second place award, using the same set of two mules. It's not unusual that Mr. McDaniel is energetic in living. He is the maternal grandson of Willie R. Wilson, who was the first and only mayor of Wildersville. Agriculturally, Mr. Wilson was innovative and progressive. He was the first man to ever use commercial fertilizer in Henderson County. Mr. Wilson bought the different components in bulk, the only way it was sold at the time, and then mixed it into proper proportions in the yard of his farm. Mr. Wilson was the first County Agent in Henderson County, and he was also an educator, teaching school at Lone Elm, Wildersville, and Pleasant Exchange before becoming county school superintendent for a time. In addition, Mr. Wilson was in partnership in the drugstore with Dr. C.E. Bolen in Wildersville.
Mr. Wilson is remembered to have been very particular about his garden and those same characteristics are to be found in Mr. McDaniel. In particular is the fact that both of them require their garden rows be absolutely straight and free of weeds. Mr. McDaniel cites his father, Roddy McDaniel, as one of the most influential persons in his life. The elder Mr. McDaniel did not have much formal education, but did have a lot of common sense and ingenuity. Mr. McDaniel says his father always had patience with him, and took time to show him to do things right. The elder Mr. McDaniel stressed that, even when farming, an effort should be made so that things would look good, and an effort should always be made to make the ground better than it was before. Mr. McDaniel remembers his father as dedicated to his church, as he attended church regularly, and he was known to go to church through the mud and rain in big heavy gum boots. Mr. McDaniel remembers helping his father hunt with his old bird dog, then selling the possum and coon hides for a quarter or fifty cents to John Parker, who had a store in Wildersville. Many times during the great depression, Mr. McDaniel helped his dad kill rabbits, gut them, and then pack them into a barrel for the market in Chicago. For this work, his father was paid ten cents per rabbit. Mr. McDaniel remembers his mother, Ollie Mae Wilson Todd McDaniel, as an excellent cook. As a boy, he relished everything she cooked, but his favorite thing was her "egg-custard" pie; she would make one most every morning and it would be gone by nightfall. If she didn't make an egg-custard pie, she made a pie with fruit, either fresh or dried.
His mother taught these pie-making skills to his own daughter, Martha Sue, and even today Mr. McDaniel goes to Martha's house, he has to have a bite of a good sweet dessert which Martha always keeps on hand for him. As a child, Mr. McDaniel went to elementary school at Sandy, until the 6th grade. Some of his favorite teachers he remembers were Andros Rhodes, Louise Oakley, and Miss Linnie Page. He went to Wildersville, grades 7through 10, walking the railroad tracks to the high school of Wildersville, as it was three miles from his home. Some of his best friends while in school were Harry Kizer, Jake Kizer, Carthel Small, and Paul Small. Mr. McDaniel remembers with amusement the first time he drive an A-Model car. As he was coming up the hill near his house, the steering wheel came completely off in his hands. Although a young boy, he had the presence of mind to quickly put on the breaks, and then push the steering wheel right back on the shaft. After regaining control, he took the car straight to the shed and parked it. Another pleasant early memory for Mr. McDaniel is that of riding the train from Wildersville to Lexington. The Saturday train from Wildersville to Lexington would have a passenger car attached on the back. As an adventuresome teen, Mr. McDaniel would pay his twelve cents at 10:30 in the morning on Saturday, and ride all the way to Lexington to spend the day. During the day, he would pay another ten cents at the movie theater to see Roy Rogers, his favorite star at the time. For another twelve cents, he would return to Wildersville on the train at 3:30 in the afternoon.
Mr. McDaniel remembers that his dad was always willing to give him some "spending money" so that he could enjoy these Saturday trips. As a boy, he liked to play baseball; he played third base most of the time and he was a good player. His team, called the "Sandy Team" would play other groups in the neighborhood. Their "ball" was made by unraveling a sock, then rewinding the thread round ad round, until it assumed a circular shape. Mr. McDaniel is a good friend and neighbor to all, a loving family man, and a person to be held in high esteem!