Visit Provides A Peek Into A Father's Painful Past

Originally published on July 15, 2011 12:29 pm

It was 1912 when Robert Walker fell off a cart that was used to pull heavy logs out of the forest, and the cart ran over him. Walker was 5 years old.

"He was just severely injured," Julian Walker — Robert's son — tells his daughter Julia Walker Jewell at StoryCorps in North Carolina. "And as an old man, he still had scars on his head where his scalp was rolled back. He was just scalped."

The one doctor in Pender County, N.C., did what he could to patch Robert up and then sent him to the hospital in Wilmington, N.C.

"He had to live there and have special care, and a family befriended him and took him in," Julian says.

When Robert was an old man, he would sit in his chair on the front lawn under the oak trees.

One day he was sitting there and an elderly couple, the Marshalls, came to the house. Mrs. Marshall went inside, and all the menfolk sat outside, Julian says. When Robert asked where John Marshall was from, he found out he was from Wilmington, N.C.

"And my dad said, 'You know, when I was a kid I was injured, and a family took me in. I do not know their names or anything about them. I just remember they had other children.' Mr. Marshall said, 'Do you remember a teenage boy that used to carry you on his shoulders? That was me.' I noticed my father look to the northeast, Mr. Marshall looked to the southeast, and I saw a tear run down their faces."

"I felt like I was invading somebody's privacy, so I quickly left, and I let them have their moment. It was hard for me to see for a little while, either," Julian says. "But I could look back and see the depth of memories between these two old men. My daddy wasn't a real emotional man, and he didn't dwell on those things, so I never knew of this family until I heard the conversation. And you know, to hear that made me know there were a lot of things about my father that I didn't know."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Nadia Reiman. Recorded in partnership with WHQR.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Every Friday at this time, we hear from StoryCorps, the project that brings together friends and families to record their stories. They talk with each other; they ask the questions of each other. Seventy-five-year-old Julian Walker wanted to remember his father, who grew up in a farming town north of Wilmington, North Carolina. When Julian's dad was 5 years old, his life changed. He suffered a serious accident.

MONTAGNE: I felt like I was invading somebody's privacy, so I quickly left, and I let them have their moment. It was hard for me to see for a little while, either. But I could look back and see the depth of memories between these two old men. My daddy wasn't a real emotional man, and he didn't dwell on those things, so I never knew of this family until I heard the conversation. And you know, to hear that made me know that there was a lot of things about my father that I didn't know.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEPE: That's Julian Walker, talking with his daughter Julia Walker Jewell, in Wilmington, North Carolina. Their conversation will be archived with all StoryCorps interviews at the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress. And as always, you can get the podcast at npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.